DARLEY is through to its first Ballarat Football League grand final since 2008 after knocking off previous flag favourites Redan on Saturday.
Despite having less scoring shots, the Devils held off a desperate Lions outfit in a pulsating final quarter to record a 15.7 (97) to 11.13 (79) victory.
In one of the most entertaining matches of the year, it was three final-term goals from Darley’s Rhys Ellis that sealed the victory and helped secure an early grand final berth.
With the lead changing hands twice early in the final quarter, a roving Steve Kenendy goal put Darley ahead by 13 points after 12 minutes and it looked as though the Devils were well on their way to securing victory. However, the maroon and gold refused to die.
Callum Currie responded within 30 seconds with a bomb from 50-metres to cut the margin to seven points and when Ash Ballinger goaled on the run, just one point separated the two sides. However, one of the turning points of the match was about to unfold.
Just as Redan was making its massive charge, Nathan Horbury came off the field in the hands of trainers, barely able to put any weight on his left foot.
He would play no further part in the match and Darley would kick four of the next five goals to romp to victory.
Having been knocked out of finals in the early stages in the last three seasons, the Devils faitful erupted as the final siren sounded – their side reaching the big dance for the first time in seven years. Earlier in the match, it was Redan that should have had the match well and truly in its control at quarter time.
They kicked 1.5 in the first quarter to Darley’s one goal, leading by just five points.
The Devils owned the second quarter to establish a 20-point lead at the main break as some of its bigger names started to shine.
Jake Edwards and Grant Bell nullified each other’s impact in a compelling head-to-head duel, leaving the likes of Steve Kennedy, Andrew Challis and captain Shane Page to lead the way for the Devils.
Ryan Closter, a late inclusion, was tremendous in the forward line with 4.3.
Redan fought back in the third term, with Brenton Riordan kicking 2.3 in the quarter alone after having almost no impact in the opening half.
Ryan Bell and Jarrett Giampaolo provided enormous rebound in the backline and Horbury was dominant before his injury.
Redan now meets reigning premier North Ballarat City in next week’s preliminary final; the Lions’ stumbling block in the past three seasons.
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