By Will Hunter
Mordialloc 10.14 (74) def St Pauls 4.9 (33)
The powerhouse Bloods are just one win away from a berth in the Division 1 Grand Final after belting St Pauls by 41 points in Saturday’s Qualifying Final at Springvale Reserve.
Mordi were in control of the contest from the opening bounce, but some early inaccuracy kept the Dogs in the hunt in the first half. A wasteful first quarter saw them put just 2.5 on the scoreboard to quarter time, which wasn’t really a reflection of their superiority over their goalless opponent.
Their half time lead was stretched to 21 points, despite some late goals to St Pauls, but in reality, it should have been closer to double that. The Bloods’ inability to put sides away early in the piece has been a bugbear for them all season, but thankfully it didn’t come back to bite them on this occasion.
The Bloods continued to bottle up the ball and create plenty of stoppages, allowing the bigger, stronger bodies of Justin Summons, Jordan Derbyshire, Danny Nicholls and Chris Brooking to exert a decisive influence around the contest. This not only ensured the Bloods dominated possession through the midfield, but made it difficult for the Dogs to display their trademark run and spread.
The Dogs’ lifted their intensity markedly in the third term – a facet of their game that was noticeably lacking in the first half – but again Mordialloc seemed to have the answers to all of St Pauls’ endeavours.
Confronted with five-goal deficit at the final change, the stage was set for one of the Dogs’ famed last quarter comebacks. And although there were coming from a long way back, their positive start to the final stanza gave their supporters plenty of hope.
St Pauls did most of the early attacking, and kept the ball locked in their forward half the for the first few minutes of the quarter. However, they could not find a way to penetrate the resolute Mordialloc defence, and consequently their second goalless quarter for the match handed victory to the red and whites.
The Mordi mids in Nicholls, Derbyshire, Brooking and Todd Bastion all had a massive impact, with ruckman Tom McMahon giving them first use at the stoppages. Down back, Alisdair Jackson stood out, while up the other end Steve Tolongs (three goals) and Matt Ravenall were both terrific.
For the Dogs, it was the quartet of experienced campaigners in Matt Kreymborg, Brad Gilder, Kieran Knox and Trent McIntyre leading the way. Young defender Will Clarke also put in a tremendous performance.
Bentleigh 9.14 (68) def East Malvern 7.6 (48)
The Panthers have bowed out of the 2017 Finals Series, falling 20 points short of Bentleigh in their Elimination Final on Sunday.
While far from a pretty spectacle, the match was no less compelling viewing as the Demons led from go to woah in a two-hour exhibition of tough, uncompromising football.
The in-form Demons entered the clash as slight favourites, and shot out of the blocks with four goals in the opening stanza. The Panthers were forced to play catch-up football for the remainder of the afternoon, and while they refused to roll over, they simply couldn’t quite bridge the gap.
East Malvern won more than their fair share of the footy throughout the day, with Ryan Mullett, Ed Sim, Steve Daniher and Jack Hammond all having an influence through the midfield at various stages, but it was their execution in the front half that let them down, rather than a lack of effort.
At three quarter time, Bentleigh clung to a 12-point lead, and the match looked like going right down to the wire. But the Demons lifted their pressure around the contest and tackled with increased ferocity, which slowed the game down and denied East Malvern any outside ball.
As a result, Bentleigh were able to grind out a tenacious victory and keep its season alive.
The Demons’ big guns in Sam McGarry, Scott Lawry, Jackson Meredith and Brody Lawford were all influential in the result, but spearhead Matt Troutbeck was the clear difference between the two sides, booting six goals in a complete best on ground performance.
Opposing ruckmen Mitch Smart and Matt Terech also fought out a tremendous battle in the air for the entire afternoon, with both featuring among their sides’ best players.
Simon Taylor booted three goals for East Malvern, while Dean Millhouse was their best with a sublime performance off half back.