By Sam Watson

AT THE start of the 2021 season, some tipped Tooradin Dalmore to be the team to beat this year.

Even though a side who won the last two flags added former AFL player Daniel Pearce and his mate Max Blake, who happens to be leading the league goalkicking tally.

That same side was determined to make sure everyone knew who the real team to beat was after Saturday.

But Tooradin Dalmore were ready for the challenge and after the first half they had a four-point lead.

The match between the two contenders started as an arm-wrestle and if it wasn’t for some missed opportunities in front of goal, the hosts may have taken the lead.

But the Seagulls refused to lie down and in the second quarter a similar result occurred.

Thanks to some brilliance from reigning league best and fairest, Cam Pedersen, the Bulldogs jumped a couple of goals ahead, but Tooradin Dalmore fired in three late goals in quick succession to take back the lead.

The second half started similarly to the first, with both sides locked into an intense battle but when Tooradin Dalmore snapped a goal from the boundary, fear started to seep into the home crowd.

But from there, the cream rose to the top.

Jason Tomada and Pearce started to lockdown the defence and the midfield of Pedersen and Jaymie Youle sparked a flurry of goals.

Although they didn’t hit the scoreboard, Alex Duyker and Jesse Patullo played their role beautifully and suddenly, the Bulldogs were in front by 11 points.

In the last quarter the hosts put the foot down and extended the lead to 31, proving to the rest of the competition, you’re still going to have to go through them if you want to win it all.

While Tooradin Dalmore couldn’t go the distance with the reigning premiers, Inverloch-Kongwak might, and Phillip Island will host them this week.

And Tooradin Dalmore will do their best to make amends when they travel to Bunyip.