By Will Hunter
SECOND SEMI FINAL
Dingley 6.14 (50) def by Mordialloc 18.4 (112)
The Bloods are the first team through to the 2017 Division 1 Grand Final after a dominant 62-point triumph over Dingley at Springvale Reserve.
While the result itself may not have come as a complete shock, few punters could have envisaged a victory of such magnitude to Mordialloc.
A tough opening stanza gave little indication of the Mordi dominance that was to follow, with Dingley booting the first two goals of the match before taking a slender eight-point lead into the first change.
The second term, however, saw the Bloods really break the game open and capitalised on every opportunity to put Dingley to the sword and send the red and white faithful into delirium.
While they gained the ascendancy through the midfield, it was their ruthless efficiency in the forward half that heaped plenty of scoreboard pressure on the rattled Dingoes. Mordi continued to spot up targets inside 50, rather than blazing away with long-range, low-percentage shots at goal, and the result was a stunning eight majors without a blemish for the term.
By the long break, the Bloods had constructed a 26-point advantage, despite having just one more scoring shot than Dingley. James Morris was the chief destroyer, booted five classy goals in the second term to almost single-handedly put his side in the box seat for victory.
Mordi maintained their momentum after the resumption, particularly with their dominance around the stoppages, and extended their lead to 42 points at three quarter time to ensure the result was largely beyond doubt.
Mordialloc’s remarkable goalscoring accuracy certainly helped ensure their margin was greater than it otherwise would have been, and was a welcome departure from its frequent inability to put sides away early in the contest. Conversely, the Dingoes booted a wasteful 2.10 in the second half, a return that was no doubt impacted by the immense scoreboard pressure applied by the efficiency up the other end.
While Morris was the star of the show with his seven-goal haul up forward, it was nevertheless a complete team performance from the entire 22. Aaron Kneebone returned to the side and cut a swathe through the midfield, while Danny Nicholls (three goals), Todd Bastion and Simon Fragiacomo was simply unstoppable around the contest.
Trav La Rocca and Matt Morwood worked diligently in the back half, and Jack Ades and Chris Horton-Milne were also industrious, but unfortunately too much was left to too few for the Dingoes
FIRST SEMI FINAL
St Pauls 8.9 (57) def by Bentleigh 11.14 (80)
The resurgent Demons have eliminated local rivals St Pauls from the finals race after a hard-fought 23-point win in their cut-throat Semi Final on Sunday.
The loss signifies a disappointing straight-sets exit for the Dogs, despite their fantastic form during the home and away season, while the winners will now take on Dingley for a Grand Final berth in next Sunday’s Preliminary Final.
There was little love lost between the two sides in what turned out to be physical encounter between the two fierce foes for much of the day.
Bentleigh had their noses in front at every change, with no lead greater than 10 points at any of the breaks, but they managed to overrun the tiring St Pauls and grind out a well-deserved victory in a tense last quarter.
But while there was little between them on the scoreboard for most of the game, the Demons had a decisive advantage at the stoppages, winning the clearances 41 to 21, largely through the efforts of star ruckman Mitch Smart, who again dominated in the air.
Scott Lawry and Barama Blow were the main beneficiaries of Smart’s brilliant ruckwork, and were simply unstoppable through the midfield. Blow’s strength at the contest allowed him to win plenty of contested footy in tight, while the classy Lawry was again an ever-present danger bursting clear from the packs.
Rowan Nayna and Tom Massey also had a big impact for the winners, but the Dogs had no answer for in-form spearhead Matt Troutbeck, who finished with another five goals to help steer his side to victory.
Nick Halliday fought hard all day to keep St Pauls in the game, while Matt Brown’s three goals were also crucial.
Alex Spencer, Trent McIntyre and Brad Gilder also featured in the best for St Pauls.