Saints earn another chance

August 10, 2017

Elation and despair: The Benalla Saints are through to the Northern Country Women's League grand final after a scrappy two-point win over Shepparton Bears at the Showgrounds on Saturday.

In tough conditions, the Saints won Sunday’s preliminary final against the Bears, leading from start to finish.

The hard-fought victory has earned the Saints another tilt at the undefeated Bendigo Thunder.

Benalla scraped home 2.1.13 to Shepparton’s 1.5.11.

Saints co-captain Kelsie Piscioneri got the home side off to a flying start with the only goal of the first half, before kicking a second in the third quarter to establish the match-winning lead.

The Saints defence, led by Kylie Relf, was outstanding. El Ploegmakers, Cheree Tregoning, Nicole Donald, Beth Lewis and Jen Fowler all contributed to keep the Bears to one goal.

Midfielders Hayley Martiniello, Gorgia Spinks, Jayde Burden and ruck Fiona Powles worked tirelessly to drive the ball forward, with Martiniello sticking a number of match-winning tackles late in the last quarter as the Bears attacked.

Young gun Mickayla Walker picked a great week to play her best game, taking a number of telling marks on the wing, while Jess Ritchie made an immediate impact after starting on the bench.

Saints co-coach Luke Morgan was impressed with the team’s resilience to stay in the match when challenged.

‘‘It was a pretty tough match for both sides given the conditions. Our girls did well to take advantage of their chances and defended well when repeatedly placed under pressure. It was great reward for effort,’’ he said.

Co-coach Darren Skelton said it was a great achievement to qualify for the grand final in the team’s first season.

‘‘We couldn’t be more pleased with how the team has performed this season. To be honest it has exceeded all our expectations,’’ he said.

‘‘Everyone loves an underdog, and we will give it our best shot on Sunday. We have nothing to lose and everything to gain.’’

Skelton said the team’s success would not have been possible without the support of the Benalla Saints Sports Club, sponsors and the broader community.

Sunday’s grand final will be played at Weeroona Oval in Bendigo at 2.30pm.

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