Buninyong 16.18 (114) d Gordon 6.7 (43)
By Tim O'Connor
In devastating fashion on Saturday, Buninyong swept aside Gordon to secure a double chance in finals.
The top four playoff match was over not long after it began, with a rampant Bombers outfit putting on a clinic in front of home fans to eventually run out 71-point winners.
Relentless pressure in the opening term saw Buninyong have 22 inside 50m entries to Gordon’s two on some stats sheets and a 27-point lead at the first change was the result.
And despite having the breeze in the second quarter, the Eagles weren’t able to match it with the Bombers, which charged into half time with a commanding 37-point advantage.
Gordon did string together a sequence of three goals during the third term, but it was just an aberration as the home side kicked clear to record an emphatic victory.
The Bombers’ performance – labelled “the best footy I’ve seen this year” by Eagles coach Gary Learmonth – clinched fourth spot on the ladder and sets up a huge qualifying final showdown with Central Highlands Football League minor premiers Beaufort.
Buninyong coach Jarrod Morgan said he was certainly not expecting to record such a convincing victory against a Gordon outfit that defeated reigning back-to-back premiers Springbank in round 16.
“Our pressure needs to be high for us to play well,” Morgan said.
“So it was probably our best defensive game pressure-wise for a long time.”
The winners were plentiful for the Bombers, with the likes of Chris Wills, Jack Robertson and Nick Shell starring down back and Fraser Russell brilliant in attack. Russell kicked three goals, but was outscored by veteran Mark Phelps, who booted four.
Morgan gave Daniel Pelchen a pat on the back for his minding job on Gordon gun Mick Nolan, while young onballer Jacob Coxall and clever winger Jarrod Rodgers were others to have a good day in red and black.
Learmonth admitted his team didn’t have many standouts, but lent the way of Toohey brothers Jack and Adam and big man Brendan Sutcliffe as Gordon’s best. Nolan was the side’s only multiple goal-kicker with two.
Given the magnitude of the defeat, the Eagles slipped from fifth to sixth on the ladder and will take on Bungaree in an elimination final next weekend.
Learmonth couldn’t put his finger on why his team was so easily beaten.
“We know our best is good enough, but we have got to make sure we don’t play like we did on the weekend,” he said.
Saturday’s win was Buninyong’s 11th in succession, while the defeat was Gordon’s first since way back in round five.
Dunnstown 15.12 (102) d Daylesford 8.6 (54)
By John McGregor
Dunnstown had a red hot go at snatching a finals berth from Daylesford on Saturday, and despite winning the game by 48 points, fell short of a top eight spot by less than six per cent.
The Towners had their sights well and truly on Central Highlands Football League finals action and led the Bulldogs at every change.
From a first term eight-point advantage, the Towners blew it out to a 32-point lead at half time and looked the goods to damage the Bulldogs further on the scoreboard.
Dunnstown’s march on the scoreboard came to an arm-wrestle in the third quarter when Daylesford dug deep and matched the hosts in every key position.
The Towners started the final term 34 points ahead, but needed to win by about 80 to secure a percentage boost big enough to dislodge the Bulldogs from eighth spot.
Andrew Toan got the ball rolling within minutes of the restart with a Dunnstown goal from a deft pass from Michael Archer.
Minutes later, a free kick and 50m penalty to Angus Thompson had the second for the quarter.
A scoring avalanche looked possible when Louis Saccutelli took a one-handed mark, danced around his opponent and slotted an exciting goal.
After that, the opportunities were hard to come by.
The most damaging player in front of goals for Dunnstown was Joe Stefani and skipper Rhys Cahir. Both kicked three majors.
Among the best for Dunnstown were Tim O’Shea, Sam Jenkins, Kyle Andrews, Mitch Henderson and Aaron Sawers, who marked his 100th game for the Towners with a goal.
Ruckman Aaron Brennan tackled his Bulldog opponent Sam Winnard with great gusto and probably came out ahead.
Scoring for Daylesford was erratic and meagre. The only multiple tally came from Winnard, who booted three majors.
The Bulldogs’ best included Joel Cowan, Seb Walsh, Patrick Rowe and Joel Cummings.
But it was a big, big effort from William Hughes which stood out for Daylesford.
For Dunnstown coach Justin Abrams, it was a bitter sweet win.
“What a game. It was amazing. It was a great win. I thought we were a chance a couple of times. My focus was to always win the game. Couldn’t be more proud… no-one would have picked us to be 9-8 after being 0-8,” Abrams said.
For Daylesford coach Marcus Goonan, an elimination final against Waubra is now the focus.
“We’ve made finals so it’s not over yet. We’ll see where we end up. At the end of the day, you coach to win games of footy. We haven’t beaten those top sides yet, but we get another opportunity to beat them next week,” he said.
Rokewood-Corindhap 10.22 (82) d Clunes 8.5 (53)
By Tim O'Connor
Rokewood-Corindhap forward Caius Barrenger kicked six goals to lead his side to a 29-point win over Clunes on Saturday.
He was named best for the Grasshoppers, which equalled their tally of four wins from the 2016 campaign.
Ruckman Ben Reese and onballer Sam Chapman were other standouts for the home side, which kicked a wasteful 10.22 for the afternoon.
For Clunes, Jesse Baird was named the side’s best for a third-straight game, while Jordan Cullen booted three majors.
The Magpies have finished season 2017 with three wins and in 16th position on the ladder, while the Grasshoppers remain 13th on the back of the weekend’s triumph.
Springbank 15.13 (103) d Creswick 3.4 (22)
By Tim O'Connor
Springbank ended the home and away rounds in third position following a comfortable victory against Creswick.
In the absence of injured forward Tom Eltringham, Travis Toohey proved the focal point with six goals in the 81-point win at Wallace.
Ruckman Brock Freeman was Springbank’s best ahead of young Luke Boers, who kicked four goals.
Jack Marshman was rated the standout for Creswick, which finished the season in 12th spot on the ladder.
Hepburn 17.15 (117) d Learmonth 11.8 (74)
By Tim O'Connor
It remains unclear whether or not Nick Dal Santo will play in Hepburn’s qualifying final against Springbank next Sunday.
The former AFL star qualified for the finals series by playing his third game with the Burras in their round 17 success against Learmonth.
Hepburn coach Jason Olver said Dal Santo had 29 possessions in the 43-point win on Saturday, but admitted he was unsure what impact the 33-year-old’s work commitments would have on his ability to play against the Tigers.
Olver is expected to know early in the week if Dal Santo is available for the important clash.
The Burras’ win over Learmonth locked in second spot on the ladder and was set up by the efforts of players like Brad McKay, who kicked four goals, Luke Stanton, Segifili Asa Leausa and Jacob Brown, who booted a game-high five majors.
Hepburn rested key players such as Dan O’Halloran and Andy McKay, but both are expected to return against the Tigers.
A Learmonth victory could have lifted the team into the top eight, but it was not to be as the Lakies finished the year in 10th position on the ladder.
This was a result of losing eight of their last 10 matches.
Brodrick Campbell kicked four goals for the visitors on Saturday, while Matt Jackson and Kyle Mackay were among the side’s best contributors.
Veteran forward Pat McGuigan ended the year on a sour note, leaving the field early with an ankle injury.
Hepburn will enter the finals on the back of a 13-match winning sequence and will battle a Springbank outfit it beat easily back in round nine.
The game has been scheduled at Learmonth.
Beaufort 9.14 (68) d Newlyn 5.1 (31)
By Tim O'Connor
Beaufort clinched the Central Highlands Football League minor premiership on Saturday with victory over Newlyn.
The Crows tuned up for the qualifying final against Buninyong with a 37-point success in difficult conditions at home.
Mitch Jenkins and Brendan Howard returned from respective injury concerns and led a defensive division that conceded just five majors for the afternoon. Jarrod Trigg also had a good day down back, while Alex Petrie kicked three goals.
Dylan McLachlan, Lachlan Fishwick and David Richardson were named among Newlyn’s best.
The Cats finished a disappointing year with three wins and in 14th spot on the ladder.
Bungaree 11.13 (79) d Ballan 4.10 (34)
By Tim O'Connor
Bungaree broke a run of defeats leading into its elimination final against Gordon by beating Ballan on Saturday.
The Demons lost Charles Martin to concussion during the game, but managed to secure a 45-point win on the Blues’ home ground.
Ruckman David Benson starred for the winners, Joel Mirtschin kicked three goals and captain Jackson Murphy also played well. For the hosts, Sam Sher and coach Jason McNamara were among the best.
Carngham-Linton 15.10 (100) d Skipton 4.13 (37)
By Tim O'Connor
Carngham-Linton captured its third win for the season with a final-round success against wooden-spooners Skipton.
The Saints, which didn’t claim a victory throughout 2016, were led to Saturday’s 63-point triumph by James Nichols’ five goals and the efforts of players like Jake Pring and Wayne Bruty.
Cameron Mitchell booted two majors and Curtis Townrow was named best for Skipton, which finished the campaign without a win.