Gordon 11.4 (70) d Buninyong 8.5 (53)
By Tim O'Connor
After a slow start to the season under new coach Ron Watt, Gordon is looming as one of the big threats to the Central Highlands Football League premiership.
The Eagles charged into finals with a 11th successive victory, beating fellow flag contenders Buninyong by 17 points on Saturday.
Both sides had already locked in a top four finish, but the result means Gordon finishes third and the Bombers fourth.
A powerful burst before half time proved decisive in Saturday’s match, with the home side kicking four goals late in the second term to lead by 10 points at the long break.
The visitors booted the first major of the third term, but never really looked like building any momentum in a scrappy battle during the second half.
Steve Nicholson converted either side of three quarter time before a sealer from Brendan Sutcliffe effectively finished off Buninyong mid-way through the last term.
There were a number of good contributors for the Eagles, which were led by key defender Mark Gunnell and small backman Taylem Wason. Matt Raworth was prolific around the ground and forward Matt Spezza enjoyed a great game.
For Buninyong, Sam Russell was named best for his display in the midfield, Lachie Baker and Beau Guest were busy down back and onballers Ned Gilbert and Jarrod Morgan were influential at times.
The Bombers rested Jacob Coxall (shoulder) and Fraser Russell (head knock) during the afternoon, but both are expected to be right to play in the opening weekend of finals.
Buninyong is booked to meet Waubra next Saturday, while Gordon is pitted against Beaufort on Sunday.
Beaufort 12.19 (91) d Newlyn 10.3 (63)
By John McGregor
What a topsy-turvy first half it was at Newlyn when Beaufort kicked 11 behinds, including eight straight in the second term.
The Crows sprayed their way to a 10-point lead at half time after running rings around the Cats.
The second half see-sawed with Newlyn taking it up to the Crows and getting to within seven points after goals from Myles Sewell and Jarrod Fryar.
But majors from Beaufort’s Tim Haase, Lachlan Murray, Jack Duke and Rupert Sangster quickly shut the gate on the Cats’ advance.
The last term found the Crows with their kicking boots on. Haase, Duke and Murray slammed through a three-goal avalanche in eight minutes. Sangster chipped in with another major and Haase slotted his second for the term soon after.
Without doubt the Crows’ best was ruckman Josh McDermott. Damian Day, Tom Stapleton, Brendan Howard, Daniel Venditti and skipper Mick Foster were rock solid.
Newlyn was beaten on the scoreboard, but players like Michael Bowden, Josh Milne, Wes Carter, Myles Sewell, Stephen Clifton and Liam Gill showed great resolve.
Returning from injury, Declan Lourey slipped back into an attacking role.
Beaufort coach Rohan Brown was gobsmacked about the second quarter.
“What a quarter that was,” Brown joked.
“Don’t know what happened there.”
The Crows have finished second on the Central Highlands Football League ladder and will meet Gordon in a qualifying final next weekend.
This match will be played on Sunday at Buninyong.
“I’m looking forward to finals. Bring them on,” Brown said.
Newlyn joint-coach Dan Wehrung was upbeat about the Cats’ performance.
“We’re finally getting some players back into the side,” he said.
“We’re looking good.”
And what about next week against Hepburn in an elimination final?
“I’m confident we’ll do well in the finals. Really confident,” he said.
The knockout battle between the Burras and Cats is scheduled for Sunday at Dunnstown.
It will be Newlyn’s first finals appearance since 2012. In that year, the Cats finished seventh and beat Springbank in an elimination encounter before being sent packing by Bungaree.
Hepburn is the reigning premiers and beat Newlyn by eight points back in round one this season.
Clunes 14.8 (92) d Rokewood-Corindhap 12.13 (85)
By Tim O'Connor
It took the entire season, but Clunes finally has a win in 2018.
Johno Leoncini also secured his first triumph as senior coach of the club when the Magpies held out Rokewood-Corindhap by seven points on Saturday.
Clunes jumped off the bottom of the ladder with the win, moving .08 of a per cent clear of Carngham-Linton.
The Magpies were led by Nick Clarke, who kicked three goals, first-gamer Luke Saligari and Matthew Wrigley.
After trailing by 10 points at the last change, Rokewood-Corindhap had its chances to spoil the party for the home side, but kicked 4.5 to fall short at the final siren.
Sam Chapman had a day out for the Grasshoppers with six majors, while Lachie Baker starred in his job in defence. Others to play well for the visitors included onballers Ben Harris and Brayden Ferguson.
Rokewood-Coriondhap finished the season in 14th position with a tally of three wins.
Bungaree 13.12 (90) d Ballan 6.5 (41)
By Tim O'Connor
Bungaree proved too good for Ballan on Saturday, but ultimately fell short in the race for finals.
The Demons, which beat the Blues by 49 points, ended the year ninth and just two points outside the top eight.
Ben Willian kicked three goals in a good display on Saturday, while Alex Browning and Matt Geary were others to impress for the hosts.
For Ballan, Austin Bongart and Dylan Galea were the best contributors.
Hepburn 18.10 (118) d Learmonth 2.7 (19)
By Tim O'Connor
Hepburn powered into finals with a blistering display against Learmonth on Saturday.
McKay brothers Brad and Andy were dominant alongside Ken Cummings as the Burras thrashed the Lakies by 99 points. Cummings booted six goals and the McKays four each in a top display.
Learmonth, which finished 10th on the ladder, managed just two goals for the afternoon. Key backman Tom Martin tried hard to be named best.
Dunnstown 11.15 (81) d Daylesford 5.3 (33)
By David Bilbrough
Dunnstown simply had to beat Daylesford on Saturday to secure a spot in the Central Highlands Football League finals series for the first time since 2011.
And it did that with minimum fuss.
In the end, the Towners were 48-point winners over the Bulldogs and finished clear in eighth spot on the ladder.
“I'm a little bit relieved in some ways, but I'm just happy. I'm really rapt to be back in finals footy. It's been a long road,” Dunnstown coach Justin Abrams said after the win.
The Towners will take on Springbank in the first elimination final at Waubra next Saturday, a contest that Abrams is looking forward to.
“We should have confidence. We beat them earlier this year out at their home ground, so that's in the back of our mind. I think we're in a good patch of footy, so anything can happen,” he said.
Following on from their terrific win over Newlyn, the Towners set up the victory in the first half with smooth ball movement into forwards Harry McKimmie (four goals) and Matt Bulluss (three goals), who kicked the visitors to an unassailable 49-point lead at the long break.
The poise and vision of half backs Sam Jenkins and Rhys Cahir – who never wasted the football – created time and space for the likes of Nick English and Tim Collins through the midfield.
“I thought last week we were superb and the danger for us was to come here and be flat after such an emotional few weeks, but they were ready to play. I think our best footy is as good as most,” Abrams said.
The Towners, however, have some injury concerns going into next week. Skipper Angus Thompson left the field in the first term clutching at his hamstring, livewire Matt Auchettl has a calf problem and there is “hamstring awareness” for ruckman Aaron Brennan.
In a day of rare highlights for Daylesford, Bulldogs legend Rob Rodgers played his 300th open age game for the club and showed he's lost none of his courage, class and skill over the long journey.
Fellow premiership player and veteran James Evans wound back the clock when thrown forward in the last term, bagging successive majors, while youngsters Joel Cowan, Josh Clough and Emmlyn Nettleton showed they will provide the platform for a Bulldog resurgence in the seasons to come.
Daylesford finished a disappointing campaign on Saturday with just two wins and in 15th position on the ladder. It is a far cry from the team that reached a semi-final in 2017.
Springbank 12.8 (80) d Creswick 9.5 (59)
By Tim O'Connor
Springbank needed a six-goals-to-zip last quarter to beat Creswick on Saturday.
The Tigers secured fifth spot on the ladder with the 21-point success, which came after the side trailed by three goals at the final change.
Brock Freeman, Joel Maher, Billy Driscoll and James Wall all played well for the visitors, while Clint Robinson, Darrien Mann and Mitch Arnold led the way for the hosts. Creswick coach Ryan Knowles kicked a game-high three majors.
Skipton 8.10 (58) d Carngham-Linton 8.8 (56)
By Tim O'Connor
Skipton has capped a hugely improved season with its sixth win of the campaign.
The Emus, which went winless in coach Greg Middleton’s first year in charge during 2017, beat rivals Carngham-Linton by two points at Snake Valley on Saturday.
That result left the Saints to collect the wooden spoon on a day they celebrated the 50th anniversary of the amalgamation of the Carngham and Linton football clubs.
Curtis Townrow kicked three goals for the Emus, which were best served by onballer Mark Hoare and ruckman Hamish Young.
Dean O’Brien booted three majors for Carngham-Linton and was one of the side’s standouts alongside defender Brodie Doolan, midfielder Lachlan Isbister and utility Ross Waters.