KIEWA-Sandy Creek will play Barnawartha in the Tallangatta and District Football League elimination final after edging out Rutherglen by seven points in a dour struggle at Tangambalanga on Saturday.
The Hawks came from three points behind at the final change to set up a meeting with Mark Sarau’s in-form Tigers.
Barnawartha sealed fifth spot with a comfortable victory against Chiltern.
Hawks coach Ryan Richardson praised his team’s resilience after a series of minor injuries restricted his rotations late in the match.
“It was just a relief to win,” Richardson said.
“The ground was really heavy and it was a good old slog which was looking like being a draw for a while.
“I think we are too good of a side to miss the finals and it would have been really hard to take.
“You feel for Rutherglen as it has been in the five all year and was unlucky to miss out.
“Thankfully we pulled out a big 30 minutes to get over the line.”
Mudlark Ryan Wallace led the way with four of the Hawks’ seven goals.
Wallace was rewarded for his outstanding season by winning the club’s best and fairest award on Saturday night.
The former Albury player kicked the sealer midway through the final quarter.
Scott Bartel impressed in defence for the victors with Adam Telford and Marc Lewis also making major impressions.
Richardson is confident he can shrug off a hamstring injury in time for the sudden-death final.
Rutherglen led at quarter and three-quarter-time thanks to strong shows from Ian Kay, Matt Glossop and Lindsay Seymour, but fell just short of the mark.
Barnawartha upstaged Chiltern by 66 points at Chiltern.
Coach Mark Sarau was delighted with the way his players started the match, but was forced to sweat late when Kiewa-Sandy Creek and Rutherglen looked a chance of playing a draw, which would have seen the Tigers miss the finals.
“We had a bloke out at Tangambalanga and one stage it looked like we might miss out with a draw which had us a bit worried,” Sarau said.
“So when Kiewa kicked a point to go seven points up late it was a relief.
“It’s good to get through and be hitting form at the right time.
“Chiltern has been a nemesis for Barnawartha so it was pleasing to kick ahead early and play some good football.”
Dederang-Mount Beauty defeated Tallangatta by 68 points.