MITTA United put itself in prime position to win back-to-back Tallangatta and District league premierships with a surprise 20-point victory against Dederang-Mount Beauty in the second semi-final at Sandy Creek on Saturday.
The Blues ended their opponents 12-match winning streak in emphatic fashion, winning 10.12 (72) to 8.4 (52), to further enhance their reputation as big-game specialists.
Trailing by two points at three-quarter-time, Clinton Gilson’s line-up defied popular opinion that Dederang-Mount Beauty would overrun it after having last weekend off by slamming on four goals to one to advance to the grand final.
Gilson said he was rapt with the way his players reacted when the match was in the balance.
“I wasn’t sure which way it was going to go at three-quarter-time,” Gilson said.
“We just kept at it and at it and eventually it went our way.
“It was a really good effort by the boys.”
Mitta United will be further bolstered for the grand final by the expected return of ruckman Nick Fraser (knee) and key forward James Gray (suspended).
The Blues’ midfield brigade of Darcy Eaton, Nathan Reynoldson, Brent Olsen, Jarrod Gorupic and David Hansford triggered the late run with strong performances at ground level.
Tom Turner held Darren Bradshaw to one major which off-set the damage done by his brother, Daniel, who booted six goals opposed to Jeff Cox.
In other match-ups, Reynoldson and Elliott Powell went head-to-head with both camps happy with their respective players’ performance and Alex Beggs and Matt Lee each had their moments in another absorbing battle.
Will Holmquest, Beau Packer and Joel Heiner were also solid for the Bombers.
But Mitta United had more contributors for longer with Gilson admitting it was difficult to find a passenger in his line-up.
“The effort was there and that’s what you need to win big games like this one,” he said.
“Dederang is a good side though and I’m sure they will bounce back ... but we still have a lot of work to do.”
Meanwhile, Barnawartha inflicted more finals disappointment on Thurgoona when it knocked the Bulldogs out of the premiership race with a 48-point victory in the first semi-final at Sandy Creek yesterday.
After falling into fifth spot in the final round of the home and away series, the Tigers followed up last weekend’s impressive win against Kiewa-Sandy Creek with another outstanding performance that would have made Dederang-Mount Beauty nervous.
Mark Sarau’s charges led by as much as 72 points during the final term with the coach happy to build further momentum.
“We were a bit scratchy early and Thurgoona looked good, but with respect to Thurgoona I don’t think we worked that hard and were trying to play bruise-free footy,” Sarau said.
“I thought they all played a role today and it was a very good performance across the board.”
Barnawartha’s defence was superb with Ryan Lempa shutting down Luke Donnan and partner-in-crime Steven Ramage never far away lending support.
Tim Price played well on Lucas Mellier while Barton medallist Cameron McNeill drifted forward and kicked three goals despite being followed by Brad Sutcliffe.
Sarau said the Tigers needed to regroup in a hurry before taking on the Bombers on Saturday.
“We only get a six-day break, but the boys are looking forward to it,” he said.
“The pleasing thing is that we came through today without any injuries and are in pretty good shape.”