Wangaratta thirds through to the decider from fifth
WANGARATTA Magpies are into a fourth straight Ovens and Murray thirds grand final following an outstanding last quarter fight back against Yarrawonga yesterday, winning the preliminary final by 13 points.
The Pigeons and Magpies split their meetings this year, Wangaratta took the round four match up by 11 points, before Yarrawonga stormed home to win by 14 points.
Yesterday’s match at Bunton Park had plenty of feeling and after playing two electric games of football so far in this year’s finals series questions were asked if the Magpies’ form could hold, and at the start the Pigeons looked the better team.
Wangaratta’s midfielders were caught watching the ball, and the unaccountable play and Yarrawonga’s early intensity caught the Magpies off guard as the Pigeons skipped ahead to a 5.1 (31) to 2.2 (14) quarter time lead.
Magpies coach Mark McDonald willed his troops to lift their tackle pressure, and to be smarter with the football.
And they responded.
Wangaratta booted 1.3 to Yarrawonga’s 0.3 but it was the defensive effort, the spread from the stoppages and the first option handball that set up the Magpies going forward.
Heading into halftime 11 points down, the Magpies were upbeat and after a quick rest were ready to hit the ground running in the third term.
A 3.2 to 2.3 term to Yarrawonga extended the margin out to 16 points at three quarter time as the Pigeons looked to roll on.
Yarrawonga didn’t expect Wangaratta to find an extra gear in the last quarter like they did and through sheer will the Magpies burst back into the game.
Wangaratta to that point of the game had kicked 5.8, and registered an inaccurate 5.7 in the final quarter while keeping Yarrawonga goalless until the last two minutes of the game to run out comfortable 13-point winners, 10.15 (75) to 9.8 (62).
“We switched to a smaller forward line in the second half,” McDonald said.
“It made us use the footballer smarter by utilising the short option and valuing possession.
“We just worked harder from the second quarter onwards as well, our mids really fired in the second half and our backs were solid.”
Frazer Judd booted two goals, Harry Smart was classy again and nailed two opportunities while six other Magpies kicked one goal each.
“We had a number of even contributions but Xav Wales was outstanding around the ground with some very strong marks; he just found himself in the right positions and had a fantastic final term,” McDonald said.
“Lochie Hourigan was strong all game, he punched the ball hard and then cleaned it up; he kicked the ball cleanly off half back.
“Fraser Ellis’ run and carry was superb, he broke lines and was a strong link between defence and forward.”
Wangaratta will now take on Albury in the grand final on Saturday at Lavington Sports Ground.
Wangaratta’s thirds have made it to the grand final every year since 2011, except in 2013 when they lost in the preliminary final, and have won four of the six premierships contested in that time.
ON SONG: Lachie Hourigan was one of Wangaratta’s best players yesterday.