STANHOPE is out of the Kyabram District Football League premiership race after being run over by Avenel in the last quarter of their first semi-final clash at Girgarre on Sunday.
The off-target Lions were just four points down in a grim, low scoring struggle at three-quarter time but kicked five behinds while the Swans added 4.2 in the last term to run out winners by 25 points and book a preliminary final showdown with Violet Town at Tallygaroopna this Saturday.
Stanhope missed their chances at the goalfront, which came back to haunt them at the finish.
Goals were at a premium in the tightly fought contest, with Stanhope managing just four for the game but at the same time threading through a frustrating 16 points.
Elimination final star James Gray didn’t have his straight kicking boot on for Stanhope and finished goalless against a close-playing Avenel opponent in John Green but let several chances go begging.
Classy key playmakers in Don Stirling and Mick McKenzie stepped up and with elusive Matt Thomas and Lachy Dryden also making an impact Avenel kicked the last four goals of the game after Stanhope missed a chance at the start of the last term to gain some momentum.
Stanhope got another big-hearted game from ruckman Col Harvey, while defenders Mick Coad and Jack Exell defended grimly all day in the scrappy, pressurised contest.
James Fraser, who started on a wing and went to defence, was another good contributor for the Lions as well as star onballer Jack Young, while Jye Patten chipped in with two handy goals in the dour struggle.
But Stanhope will no doubt be contemplating for weeks to come what could have eventuated if they had made the most of their chances.
Nagambie stuns Violet Town
IN the second semi at Stanhope on Saturday Nagambie upset the minor premier to book a spot in the premiership showdown.
The reigning premiers kicked five second half goals to the Towners three to pull off a 16-point win.
Violet Town was a point up at half-time through the efforts of Zac Economou, Ryan Sutherland, Pat Horsburgh and Leigh Lugg.
But the Lakers, led by Tony Haysom, Mick Shiels, Kyle and Zac Winter-Irving and Nathan Fothergill, were able to meet the challenge and lead their side into another grand final.
Stanhope reserves kick on
STANHOPE reserves remained in the flag fight with a 41-point win over Murchison-Toolamba.
The Lions dictated terms from the start with Lachy Firmer, veteran Leigh Hall, Tanner Stokes and Jack Cockcroft leading from the front with support from the experienced Dan Freeman and Lachy West.
Jacob Ewart, Lachy Button, Jack McCormack and Liam McDonald tried hard for the combine but lacked support.
Stanhope now meets Tallygaroopna in the preliminary final this Saturday with the winner taking on Merrigum for the flag the week after.
Merrigum double delight
MERRIGUM reserves and thirds both booked grand final berths with second semi-final wins over Tallygaroopna at Stanhope on Saturday.
The Bulldog reserves always had a scoreboard edge on their rivals and in a tough slog emerged 19-point winners.
The Merrigum defence stood firm all day and leaked only four goals while Jason Chistou and Tristan Fitzsimmons both kicked two goals each for the winners, which were vital in the low scoring contest.
Veteran Travis Thomson showed the way for the Bulldogs along with Liam Cross, Jerard Watson and Brett Maher while Stewart McKenner and Tristan Fitzsimmons also stepped up in the win.
Merrigum thirds will be shooting for successive flags after also downing Tallygaroopna in their second semi-final clash.
It was a tight contest with Tally coming back in the second term after Merrigum had kicked four first-term goals.
Only 10 points separated the sides at the long break but the young Bulldogs, led by Chris Zampaglione, Ryan Mangan and Tyler Schoots in particular, worked really had to defend this lead. They received some sturdy support from Sam Barbagallo and Dylan Rowney.
The Bulldogs had the chances to win by a bigger margin, with several frustrating misses on goal.
Merrigum now await the winner of this Saturday’s preliminary final between Tally and Avenel in the season decider on grand final day at Mooroopna on Saturday week.
Lancaster thirds out
LANCASTER thirds bowed out of the premiership fight when they found Avenel too strong in their cut-throat semi.
Avenel was generally in control and ran out winners by 40 points.
The young Wombats were best served by Kyle Kidd, Ben Nankivell, Jayson Harrison, Jamie Scapin, Nic Ryan and Aidan Briggs.
- Gus Underwood