YARRAWONGA recorded its 15th straight victory over Wangaratta Rovers with yet another get-out-of-jail win on Saturday.
In a match scarily similar to the 2012 second semi-final, the Pigeons again came from the clouds in the dying stages to stun the Hawks by seven points at W.J. Findlay Oval.
The Hawks, who last beat Yarrawonga back in 2007, led by 20 points with less than 10 minutes to go.
Yarrawonga co-coach Drew Barnes, who was coaching the Pigeons from the sidelines for the first time after snapping his Achilles on Thursday, said there was no doubt his club had developed a canny ability to win close games.
“It’s happened a number of times over the past five years at Yarrawonga when we’ve been down,” Barnes said.
“I think we’ve just got a culture now that likes winning and that other teams know that.
“They probably get a little worried when we start getting a run on and guys like Xavier Leslie, Craig Ednie and Marcus McMillan know how to stand up when they need to.
“Once you grab that momentum you just need to keep running with it.
“You’re going to be in those situations in finals so to experience it now is fantastic for the group.”
Ednie, in particular, was outstanding.
Yarrawonga’s little master was everywhere in the first half, racking up 33 touches for the game and in trademark fashion started the Pigeons’ charge home with a goal from nowhere at the 16-minute mark of the final term.
McMillan added another soon after when he received a free kick and soft 50-metre penalty in front of the Hawks’ bench at half-forward.
Kayne Pettifer dribbled through a miraculous goal less than a minute later that tangled with the goal umpire as it was going through.
The Hawks were ropable it was paid a goal.
Big Brandon Symes put the Pigeons back in front after plucking a mark deep inside 50 with just a minute left in the game.
Champion midfielders Tim Cooper (27 disposals), Tyler Bonat (30) and Leslie (29) were all exceptional for the visitors.
The Hawks kept themselves in the hunt thanks to a dominant performance from Shane Gaston in the ruck.
They continually had first use at the stoppages and Sam Carpenter churned out clearance after clearance thanks to Gaston’s silver service.
Hawk coach Paul Maher wasn’t in the mood to rue what might have been.
He locked the players away for a brief chat straight after the defeat.
“We demanded that everyone be positive and that there would be no finger-pointing,” he said.
“For three quarters and 16 minutes we were the best side on the ground.
“As disappointed as we all were, I couldn’t go in there and have a crack at the boys because I was just so rapt with the way we played for those three quarters and 16 minutes.
“Our intensity and tackling was fantastic and we put our bodies on the line.”