Giants earn crack at Minyip-murtoa
Southern Mallee Giants will meet Minyip-murtoa with a grand final spot on the line, while Horsham Saints and Ararat will fight to keep their seasons alive in a blockbuster second week of Wimmera football finals.
The Giants earned the right to play the minor-premier Burras by downing Ararat 13.13 (91) to 7.4 (46) in Saturday’s qualifying final at Murtoa.
It was the Giants who drew first blood through key forward Riley Lehmann but Ararat, playing with the wind at its back, worked its way on top.
Dylan Shelley’s long set shot gave the Rats their first, with hard-running Jack Ganley adding a couple and Tom Mills also splitting the middle to help the side establish a two-goal lead at quarter time.
Sam White and Sam Weddell collected plenty of the football at half back for the Giants, but sometimes struggled to pinpoint targets kicking into the wind.
But in the second quarter the Rats came to a screeching halt as the Giants powered ahead.
Coach Coleman Schache, who was kept quiet in the opening term, began to find the football in the centre and Riley Lehmann continued to present up forward.
Tyler Lehmann also used
his big frame to good effect around the ball and Clint Burdett was dangerous on the outside of packs.
Missing late withdrawal Cody Lindsay, the Rats turned to athletic defender Jayden Wright and Baydn Cosgriff in the ruck.
While Wright rucked admirably against Giant Reece Mcnally for most of the day, his presence was missed by the under-siege backline.
Shelley was moved back after kicking the opening goal, with Adam Haslett and Liam Arnott also doing their best to stem the tide and provide rebound.
But it was not enough to prevent the Giants going into half time with a 19-point lead and all the momentum.
Ararat, desperate to make the most of the wind in the third quarter, fought back with goals to Ganley, Shelley and the speedy Dylan Woods, but it seemed the Giants had a counter punch for every Ararat score.
With Riley Cook playing loose in defence and Sam White also without a direct opponent on occasions, the Giants stifled Ararat with 4.9 to one behind in the last term.
Both sides were left battered and bruised after a physical game that verged on spiteful at times, with the Giants’ Mcnally and star Ararat midfielder Dan Mendes both sporting prominent black eyes and Harry Ganley ending his day with ice strapped to his calf.
Schache said he was thrilled with the way his side embraced the physicality of finals football.
“Finals is always a different game, so it was pleasing to get a four-quarter performance,” he said.
“It was a physical game, but that’s the joy of finals I reckon; it’s always exciting. We’ll have a couple of sore bodies, but nothing ice can’t fix.”
Ararat coach Shane Fisher said the effort of his team had not been up to scratch.
“I was bitterly disappointed as a coach after quarter time; we just shut up shop,” he said.
“From half back to half forward, in that third of the ground I thought our work rate was really ordinary.
“If you have too many play ordinary it just dominos your team, and today we didn’t stand up.”
Fisher said the Rats were determined to regroup and win through to a preliminary final when they meet Horsham Saints on Sunday at Nhill.
The Saints are riding high after one of their best defensive performances of the season, strangling Stawell 8.5 (53) to 2.7 (19) in Sunday’s elimination final at Beulah. Team defence has been the Saints’ calling card and it was on full display in the first quarter as they held the Warriors scoreless.
Xander Mcrae’s dominant showing against one of the league’s best forwards in Cody Driscoll was emblematic of the Saints’ day.
Although Driscoll took some good marks, he was made to work for every possession and kicked just one goal.
Angus Martin was another standout, kicking three goals at centre half forward and also spending time in the ruck and on the ball.
Saints coach Luke Fisher said his team had performed brilliantly and would try to replicate its form against the Rats.
“They beat us twice earlier in the year and it was good to get the one that matters back,” he said.
“We suffocated everything they wanted to do offensively. It wasn’t just the back six, it was a real team defence that didn’t let them play their game style at all, and you could see how they were frustrated with it.
“Hopefully against Ararat it will be similar to when we’ve played against them the past couple of times where we don’t let them get out and running, because they’re a side that likes to run.
“If we can play our game style and win it at the contest, we give ourselves every chance.”
Ararat’s Dylan Woods tackles Sam White, Southern Mallee Giants.