NORTH BALLARAT CITY 16.10 (106) defeated DARLEY 7.11 (53)
A STUMBLE in week one of finals, an absolute domination in week two.
North Ballarat City was back at its best yesterday, smashing Darley by 53 points and staving off a straight sets exit from finals.
This was the North Ballarat City that the Ballarat Football League knew and had grown to fear this year.
The black and white midfield tore the game away from the Devils from the outset and, in reality, the match was over as soon at quarter-time.
North had slammed on six goals against the stunned Devils, who barely got the ball inside 50 and had registered just two behinds at the first break.
Marc Greig was proving unstoppable down forward, helping himself to two of his eventual four goals and setting up a number of others.
The midfield, led by Jason McNamara and Ayden George, won almost every clearance, and Ryan Hobbs, Sam and Brendan Howard were impenetrable down back.
After copping a spray for the “nightmare” first quarter from coach Rod MacPherson, Darley came out with genuine intent in the second quarter.
The Devils kicked three goals within 10 minutes to bring the margin back to 18 points, but that was close as they would ever get.
“It was about absorbing the onslaught, which we knew was always going to come and not taking too much damage,” North City coach Rob Waters said.
There was no questioning the Darley resolve in the second and third terms, but pegging back the 39-point margin was always going to prove difficult.
The buffer was reduced to 20 points midway through the third term when Tate Stone goaled after taking a mark and being awarded a 50-metre penalty and the visitors were showing genuine belief.
However a strong Greig mark and handball to a loose Jayden Orr, who strolled into an open goal, drove a stake through Darley’s comeback.
Just 19 points separated the sides at the final break, but any thoughts of a remarkable Darley victory evaporated almost instantly.
A clever dribbling goal from Shaun Lyle in the first two minutes, followed by another from the lively forward 10 minutes later meant the result was all but secure with 15 minutes gone.
Darley heads dropped and Greig snapped a goal to send the Northies into party mode.
“We had to come out and make a statement that we are still good enough to do it and I reckon we did that,” Waters said.
“They’re a very strong group, very resilient, and I think we proved that.”
For Darley, coach Rod MacPherson was left to rue another early exit from finals.
He conceded his side might have struggled in its preparation after last week’s monumental, but gruelling, fightback victory against East Point.
“They chopped us up out of the midfield early and gutted us,” MacPherson said.
“I think we took for granted that we were going to be able to flick the switch like last week. But North didn’t win 15 games in the home and away because they are a soft outfit.”
Looking forward, MacPherson said his club was in good stead for future years.
“We’re starting to get things together in the juniors and that’s what you need for consistent success,” he said.
North Ballarat City will now meet Redan next week in the preliminary final, the side it went down to by 41 points last week.