OAKLEIGH: 17.17 (119)
NORTH BALLARAT: 5.6 (36)
AT SOME stage during play, North Ballarat Rebels' self-belief had slipped away.
Oakleigh outwitted the Rebels with sharper, faster, slicker play from the outset.
The Chargers put a stranglehold on this preliminary final, at Carlton's Visy Park on Saturday, and the 83-point victory booked a spot in the coveted TAC Cup under-18 grand final at Etihad Stadium next Sunday.
It is a disappointing, uncharacteristic and unexpected blow for the Rebels.
They had done everything right for this match claimed the minor premiership, won their way through to the prelim from the qualifying final and, after a week's break, took a full line-up into the clash.
Rebels coach David Loader said it was hard to pin-point exactly how it all unravelled. And so quickly.
"We lacked taking our opportunities when they arose," Loader said.
"Oakleigh were very good, they kicked the footy well ... we just had a lot of good players down.
"This is the sort of match when you need to try and get the most out of everyone.
"We didn't run and spread, we started doubting ourselves and then everyone started to get back in their shells."
The Rebels key players were quiet and their teammates followed suit.
Loader said finals demanded all players step up and carry their weight.
The Rebels lacked heroes when they needed them most.
Oakleigh tightened its grip on the match from the opening bounce.
The Rebels splayed early scoring chances and by quarter-time had posted two behinds to the Chargers' 3.7.
Post-match, Loader wondered had those early chances been converted, would momentum have pulled a closer match?
In the huddle, Loader called on his Rebels to regroup and stick to what they did best.
Oakleigh had three more goals on the board before Louis Herbert booted the Rebels' first, just past eight minutes into the second term.
The Chargers continued to carve up play with quick midfield clearance and well-drilled forward precision to add four goals and take a 61-point lead into the half-time break.
Loader's message to his players in the rooms remained positive.
And the players rallied.
The strong-marking Herbert, often double-tagged, and dangerous Jake Neade combined for three goals within eight minutes.
A near-miss and confusion when Neade was called to play on, could have sliced the margin to 20 points.
Instead, the Chargers surged again and nulled the Rebels resurgence to the final siren.
Ruckman Kyle Hendy was named the Rebels' best for his tireless and solid efforts while defenders Lachie Cassidy and Tim McKenzie were valiant under siege.
Wingman Dom Barry showcased his speed in run-and-carry.
Loader said there were positives to be found in the match but it did not make the way this matched panned out any easier to bear.