A BREAKTHROUGH premiership is within Leitchville-Gunbower’s grasp after the Bombers won through to a third consecutive Heathcote and District Football League grand final.
In the game of the season so far, the Bombers were headed in the final term of the second semi-final on Saturday as a ferocious North Bendigo line-up fought its way back into the contest.
However, LG’s resilience shone through in the closing stages, kicking two goals in the final five minutes to seal a 10-point win.
‘‘We’re really pleased. It was a pretty tough match as expected,’’ LG coach Matt Hawken said.
‘‘It was our first close game for the year and a bit closer than we would have liked, but we got out of jail a bit towards the end with a couple of late goals.’’
In a fiery clash between the fierce rivals, the Bulldogs landed the early punches to lead in the first term, but that woke up the Bombers who responded with six second-quarter goals to wrestle back a nine-point advantage by the half.
LG, who played without ruck trio Lee Pollock, a late withdrawal through injury, Michael Pilcher, who had a corkie in the first half, and replacement Ashton Dye, continued to excel in the third term in building a 22-point three-quarter-time buffer.
But the two-time reigning premier wouldn’t go down quietly, peppering the goal and kicking the first three of the last stanza to grab the slender lead.
‘‘We had a really good third and had some momentum, but we’d lost Pilcher and Dye as well as Lee Pollock pre-game,’’ Hawken said.
‘‘They dominated out of the centre, found some repeat forward entries and we made a few little errors that gave them some momentum.’’
Called into action, the Bombers had the answers, best-on-ground Daniel Coates kicking his fourth to put them back in front before Ryan Prendergast sealed the deal.
‘‘They had their noses in front and we looked spent, but we just dug in and generated a goal for Coates, and then Prendergast was able to drift forward and seal it.
‘‘It was really pleasing to get back in front after giving up the lead and looking all at sea.’’
Star forward Matthew Perri improved on his already lofty standards with six massive goals in a final, taking his tally to 118 goals this season in 18 games, but it was Coates’ huge four goals that got the side across the line.
Jackson McEwen was also influential while consistent stars Matt Pollock, Joel Donehue, Matt Ladson and Logan Prout delivered in spades again.
Jordan Ford dominated for North, kicking three goals to be named his side’s best in what it would see as an unexpected loss.
Ryan Gow and Nicholas Waterson were good for the Bulldogs also, Cheatley Medallist Jarrod Findlay well held kicking just one goal for his side.
The Bulldogs’ season isn’t over, and will enter next weekend’s preliminary final as clear favourites against the winner of Sunday’s semi-final between Colbinabbin and Huntly.
The Bombers can sit back and wait for the next fortnight, their tickets to the September 9 decider at Huntly already punched.
In a disappointing blow for the side, forward Jack Dye copped a knock late in the contest and was left with a broken collarbone, his absence from the grand final team hurting the enthusiasm in the rooms post-game.
The side’s training will focus on recovery early this week before a main session on Saturday, the reserves knocked out of the finals with a 97-point loss to North Bendigo on Sunday.