A gallant Deer Park was pipped 81-75 by a more fancied Mentone in the Bowls Victoria premier division at Ballarat Road on Saturday.

In a game that had pulses racing up until the last end, it would be the side that produced the best bowls under pressure that would emerge with the spoils. Deer Park is not that side just yet, well not when it comes to blockbuster games against the top-shelf opponents.

While they lacked composure in the late stages, the Lions can take a whole lot of positives out of the manner of defeat to an opponent that would have been a premiership chance had it not been stripped of points for fielding an ineligible player early in the season.

The Lions showed vast improvement from the side that was walloped by Mentone in their first encounter in round three.

“The standard of the game was exceptionally high,” Lions president Neil Cromie said. “To their credit, they played some big shots at crucial stages, they did it a couple of times in the last couple of ends.

“Converting a shot here and there was the difference between a win and a loss.

“At the start of the year, we were absolutely belted by Mentone at Mentone, so for us to turn it around to the point where there’s a couple of shots in it with a couple of ends to go, you know you’ve really come a long way within a season.”

The Lions wilted in the late game situation which separates the best from the rest.

It is a by-product of being a newly promoted side in Victoria’s top-flight bowls competition.

Robert Doody’s rink was Deer Park’s only winner, beating David Hoareau 22-20, but the other rinks were “nip and tuck”.

David Holt snared a point for the Lions with a 19-all tie with Ashleigh Rowan, while Shane Garvey and Brett Mahoney had losses by less than five shots.

“You have days when you play well and things just don’t quite go your way,” Cromie said.

“That’s what we felt today.

“The rinks that lost only lost by a few shots, so it’ll turn around very quickly and with a bit of luck we’ll string some wins together.”

Next up for Deer Park is the ultimate test against runaway ladder leader Altona at home.

This is another chance for them to show a big gun their potential.

“It will be for bragging rights on this side of town and we’d let them know if we won, put it that way,” Cromie said with a chuckle.

“Altona is, in a lot of ways, where we’d like to be.

“They’ve been there and done it consistently year after year. The strength of their club and the strength of their sides is something we’ll be trying to replicate.”