BY NATHAN DOLE
A BRILLIANT final quarter fightback has put Sandhurst into another senior footy grand final in the Bendigo Bank Bendigo FNL action.
The Dragons faced a three-goal deficit going into the final quarter of last Saturday’s preliminary final against Strathfieldsaye Storm at Queen Elizabeth Oval.
After being beaten just once in the home-and-away series, Sandhurst faced the prospect of consecutive finals defeat which would put it out of the premiership race.
A team jointly coached by Ash Connick, non-playing, and Bryce Curnow, playing, dominated most of the last term of Saturday’s contest.
The Dragons slammed on 6.3 which included brilliant goals by Archer Day-Wicks from an acute angle and a shot by Nick Stagg beyond the 50m arc.
At the final siren the Dragons led 11.15 (81) to 11.7 (73) to advance to next Saturday’s showdown with the Christian Carter-coached Golden Square for the Bendigo Advertiser premiership cup.
In the preliminary final an inaccurate Sandhurst led 5.10 to 4.2 at half-time.
The Darryl Wilson-coached Storm then surged to an 18-point lead as it dominated the third term.
Strathfieldsaye added 5.4 and kept the maroon and blue to a tally of two behinds which put the heat right on the Dragons.
Inspired by the play of ruckman Hamish Hosking and on-ballers Noah Walsh and Sam Conforti it was Sandhurst which stormed to victory in what would be Darryl Wilson’s final game as Strathfieldsaye coach.
The Dragons’ attack was led by the experienced Andy Collins and Matt Thornton with two goals apiece.
Other goalkickers were James Coghlan, Archer Day-Wicks, Hamish Hosking, Jake McLean, Nick Stagg and Noah Walsh.
Storm co-captain Lachlan Sharp kicked three goals which took his season tally to 98 as he claimed the Ron Best Medal for a third time.
Other goalkickers for Strathfieldsaye were Jed Brereton, Lachlan Gill, Hunter Lawrence, Joseph Mayes, Jake Moorhead, Bode Stevens, Luke Webb and Riley Wilson.
Sandhurst’s best included Liam Ireland, Caleb Connick and Nick Stagg.
Storm’s best were Cooper Jones, Luke Webb, Jake Moorhead, Callum McCarty, Daniel Clohesy and Jed Brereton.
It was a thrilling finish to the reserves preliminary final between Sandhurst and Strathfieldsaye.
The Dragons led 36-21 at half-time of the match in the Harmac Homes-backed competition.
Storm moved within eight points going into the last quarter as it scored 1.2 to a behind in the third term.
Both line-ups kicked two goals in the last as the Dragons fought on for a 50-45 victory.
Sandhurst’s attack was led by Joel Wharton with two goals as Harrison Free, Brodie Montague, Sean O’Farrell, Connor Sexton and Jed Zimmer added one.
Goalkickers for Storm were Abe Sheahan, two; Dermott Bell, Lachlan Bonney, Jai Featherby and Shannon Murphy.
The Dragons’ best were Harrison Free, Isaac Carracher, Brodie Montague, Joel Wharton, Patrick and Sean O’Farrell.
Brady Hore, Darcy Mulquiny, Carson James, Joel Reinheimer, Abe Sheahan and Harry Teasdale were Strathfieldsaye’s best.
Sandhurst will now tackle Eaglehawk in the grand final.
The Hawks’ only loss in the home-and-away series was in the 18th round when it played Sandhurst on the QEO.
Both teams met in the second semi where the Borough won by 52 points.
Gisborne dominated the second half of the SportsPower under-18s preliminary final clash with Sandhurst.
The Bulldogs led 16-13 at half-time and then scored 3.1 to a behind in the third quarter.
Led by the play of Jack Long, Frankie Ellis and Indy Williamson, Gisborne kicked away to record an 8.13 (61) to 3.6 (24) victory.
Zach Paterson kicked a game-high three goals for the red, white and blue.
Other goalkickers for the Bulldogs were Lachie Bianco, Jack Clough, Hamish Thomas, Ed Williams and Indy Williamson.
Sandhurst’s goals were kicked by Callum Craig, Wil Pinniger and Isaac Tzouroutis.
Best for Gisborne included Lachie Bianco, Lachlan Evans and Kane Minns.
Oliver Morris, Deakin Andrews, Davis McNair, Wil Pinniger, Daniel Noden and Logan Kilcullen played well for the Dragons.
It’s an all-Bulldogs clash in Saturday’s grand final as Golden Square takes on Gisborne.
They met in the second semi where Golden Square marked a three-goal victory.
Schedule for Saturday’s grand finals at Queen Elizabeth Oval:
Under-18s at 9.15am: Golden Square v Gisborne.
Reserves at 11.50am: Eaglehawk v Sandhurst.
Seniors at 2.20pm: Golden Square v Sandhurst.