A SECOND-half fadeout cost Ballarat a spot in the top-ranked interleague match on Saturday, smashed by Goulburn Valley to the tune of 65 points in Shepparton.
Heading into the AFL Victoria Country Championships match with a division one playoff on the line, Ballarat was able to match it with the home side early, but conceded a whopping 15 goals in the second half to go down 22.20 (152) to 13.9 (87).
It was apparent from the outset of the match that Goulburn Valley meant business, dominating possession and field position for the opening 10 minutes.
However the home side was unable to capitalise, with Ballarat capitalising on its first forward 50-metres entry when Hayden Walters waltzed into an open goal.
And when Sam Conroy converted from 40 metres out just two minutes later, one got the sense Ballarat was in a for a genuine battle.
East Point’s Paul Kodorenko was dominating in the ruck and would later be named best on ground for Ballarat, while Steve Kennedy and Chris Giampaolo were on top in the midfield.
The lead changed hands four times in the opening quarter, with Goulburn Valley taking a three-point lead into the first break.
The home side came out firing in the second term and appeared to be running away with the match with the margin at 30 points half-way through the second quarter, before the visitors’ midfield got right on top and Ballarat responded with four consecutive majors of its own.
Conroy had three goals to his name at half time and Walters took in his two goals from the first quarter.
Heading into the main break down by just seven points, Ballarat could not afford another early quarter slip-up.
But that is exactly what happened, only this time there would be no recovery.
Goulburn Valley kicked nine goals to Ballarat’s three for the term, moving the ball with will and proving far more efficient going forward.
And if there was any hope of a last quarter comeback, despite trailing by 48 points at the final break, it was thwarted when Goulburn Valley’s Daniel Willis kicked a classy goal from the boundary, one of his six for the day.
As the sting went out of the game, Goulburn Valley kicked three of the remaining five goals of the match.
Full-back Daniel Hobbs was stoic in defence despite repeated attacks, keeping the exuberant cult hero Dan Lewis to just two goals.
However, Goulburn Valley simply had too many options going forward, with four players kicking bags of three or more.
Speaking after the game, Ballarat coach Shane Skontra said the final scoreboard did not fully reflect the nature of the match, but admitted his side was truly outclassed.
“They used the footy a lot better than us in periods,” he said.
“That’s where you don’t question our effort, we just couldn’t quite finish off from forward of the centre and they set up from there.”
Ballarat will meet Bendigo next year, while GVFL will clash with defending champion Geelong.