With the clock on the Barooga scoreboard reading deep into the last quarter and an unassailable lead in its command, excitement on the Cobram bench was palpable.
After a few challenging years, finally the club had a win it could savour.
As the final siren sounded on an at times ugly but truly gripping contest, Cobram was at last out of its great rival’s shadow, defeating Barooga by 21 points.
It was Cobram’s first win over the Hawks since 2013.
For the young cubs, this game may prove to be a key stepping stone in their season.
Cobram is an extremely young group and will make mistakes along the way, but here, on Barooga’s home deck, it showed it will be more than competitive and will fear no-one this season in the Murray Football League.
It was an incredibly even team performance by Cobram with winners on every line.
While Barooga was led well by coach James Hazelman in defence and midfield duo and co-captains Jake Russell and Callum Leighton-Daly, it was hard to find other major contributors in a performance that lacked urgency and zip.
The contest began as many expected, fierce around the footy, and it was evident this would be a day that clean possessions would be at a premium.
Hulking midfielder Tom Scott gave the visitors exactly the start they were after, lacing the footy cleanly from 40m for a lovely goal.
A couple of minutes later, Scott had his second and belief was rife among the young cubs.
Despite the Tigers having the better of the opening exchanges, Barooga quickly began to find its rhythm and dominated the rest of the quarter, penetrating the Cobram backline with a barrage of inside 50s.
Barooga key forward Matt Demaio who was well held by Nathan Hartley. He found some joy late in the first quarter when he found himself one out with Sam Beasley in the goal square, marked strongly and finally gave Barooga some reward for effort.
A combination of Barooga’s inaccuracy in front of goal (five behinds) and its resoluteness in defence meant it went to the first break only trailing by four points when it threatened to be much worse.
The second quarter played out much to the same beat of the first and was a highly scrappy affair, with neither side able to move the ball with any real fluency.
The first goal of the quarter finally arrived at the nine-minute mark, with Cobram forward Ben Ryan converting from a flying snap on the run from 40m. It was a rare moment of class in a quarter that provided few highlights.
Key Tiger Tyron Baden started to stamp his influence on the game, consistently repelling Barooga attacks and starting Cobram’s offence in his new role at half-back.
Hazelman was doing much the same down the other end, repeatedly dropping off his man to intercept mark, providing Cobram coach Josh Noonan with more than a few headaches at the main break.
With scores level at 24-apiece at half-time, the game suddenly sparked to life early in the third term when Brodey Rudd and Darcy McCormack both converted set shot opportunities.
There was a noticeable step up in intensity and tackling pressure as Cobram began playing inspired football, almost sensing its opponent was on the canvas.
But both teams wasted chances in front of goal, which meant Cobram took a 10-point lead in to the final change.
When new Tiger recruit Jack Wilson goaled on the run for the first major of the last, it looked as if Cobram was going to romp home.
But Barooga had other ideas and in a five-minute power burst, the contest was turned on its head and Barooga took the lead as Russell, Leighton-Daly and ruckman Brodie A’Vard all goaled.
With all the momentum seemingly against the Tigers, it would have taken a brave person to bet against Barooga. But Cobram weathered the storm and fought back valiantly, regaining the lead in what was undoubtedly the highlight of the game.
Deep in the forward pocket, close to 45m from home, McCormack let sail with a huge bomb, bringing the crowd to its feet and Cobram back into the contest.
After being relatively quiet up until half-time, boom Tiger recruit Cadeyn Williams showed his class, snapping truly to give Cobram a vital eight-point lead.
The game was sealed late when the returning Lance Crowe kicked truly from 30m to give the Tigers a famous win.
Although disappointed, Hazelman said Cobram deserved the win.
‘‘Full credit to Cobram. Their intensity around the ball and the way they played forced us to go away from what had been working so well for us in the pre-season,’’ he said.
‘‘We never really had control of the game.’’
Hazelman said it was important to keep perspective considering it is only round one and his side needed to rebound quickly.
‘‘There is no bigger challenge than going to Numurkah and trying to win there, so that is our aim next week,’’ he said.
‘‘I think the competition is going to be really even this year, so you have to be on your game, otherwise you will get beaten.’’
Noonan was thrilled with the way his side was able to respond after being seriously challenged in the final term.
‘‘The most pleasing thing was when the team was headed in the last, they stuck to the task and got themselves back into the contest,’’ he said.
Noonan said the victory would provide his young group with great belief.
‘‘It meant a fair bit in regards to the hard work the club has done over the off-season to get the right players back to the club,’’ he said.
‘‘It just proved we are on the right track.’’