CASTERTON SANDFORD 12.8 (80) d EAST GAMBIER 11.9 (75)
THE 2019 Western Border football season is over for East Gambier, after Casterton Sandford staged a stunning last-minute five-point victory in the first semi-final clash on Sunday.
East has shown this year it can come from behind and win a game in the dying seconds, but this time the Cats turned the tables on the Bulldogs’ home deck at McDonald Park.
The game see-sawed throughout the day on the fortunes of a strong breeze, which blew across and to the north of the ground.
The lead subsequently changed at each break, with the Bulldogs opening what appeared to be a match-winning 27-point advantage at the final break.
But when the game was on the line the Cats stood tall, despite East with the chance to seal the contest late in the game.
The game was tied up late in the quarter, then a set shot for goal provided the Bulldogs with a one-point advantage as the clock ticked well into time-on.
It then appeared a foregone conclusion, with little time left for the Cats to mount a counter-attack from deep within their defensive zone.
However, the intent shown by the Victorians throughout the day shone through and Daniel Richardson finished the work off with a quick goal and the victory.
The crowd erupted and the Cats were ecstatic.
Cats’ coach Hamish Jarrad was rightly pleased with the result, considering East has ended the Cats’ run several years in a row.
“It is a good feeling,” he told The Border Watch after the game.
“I have so much respect for their group and their team, what they have done over the last few years.
“The way they play – when they get it right it is so hard to match up against.
“I thought our desire to not allow them to play the game their way is what enabled us to get the result.”
Going into the contest the Cats were clear underdogs, with East having the home-ground advantage.
But that means little in a pressure-cooker final and once the Cats had a sniff of victory they were hard to hold down.
Casterton Sandford showed plenty of intent and desire to win the ball throughout the day.
Even after trailing at the first break it appeared the Victorians were still right in the contest.
Giancarlo Cooper kicked the first major score of the day and East looked on song.
When Matt Scanlon marked on a sharp lead and drifted the ball in on the breeze the signs looked ominous.
By the time the first break arrived the Cats had just one behind on the board to East’s 23 points.
But the side rallied and came out with real intent in the second term.
With all the possession early it was only a matter of time before the Cats found the big sticks, which came through Jackson Gibbs.
Jarrad took matters into his own hands and lined up from 40 metres out to bang home another to close the margin further.
When Will Macdonald marked on a tight angle and calmly went back to slot the goal home the Cats were in full flight.
Just minutes later they took the lead for the first time, but there was only one point in the game favouring the visitors at the long break.
The third term panned out as a one-sided affair, as East banged on six goals to the Cats’ one and the finals dream looked over for the Victorians.
But with the desire shown throughout the game the Cats pushed on as they kicked with the wind in the final term.
The end result came down to a few defining moments.
An inspirational goal to the injured Justin Carlin early in the term had the Cats up and about.
Carlin had dislocated his shoulder in the first half, but returned to the ground after the long break and was prominent in the victory.
A minute later Macdonald kicked another and the belief was there.
With just 10 minutes gone Richardson added to the tally and suddenly the Bulldogs were on the back foot.
Kyle Carlin crumbed a ground ball and goaled to tie the game up with 16 minutes gone.
Matt Scanlon then passed off to Jayden Eldridge who goaled against the tide to wrestle back the lead, but Justin Carlin responded and scores were level again.
When Tim Malone snapped a goal late in the game the Cats were up by a straight kick and the Bulldogs had plenty to do to keep their season alive.
Again they responded as Mark Rumbelow kicked a major from a set shot.
With just seconds remaining East appeared to kick the winning behind, but from there the Cats rallied and moved the ball up the ground with lightning speed to secure the victory and the preliminary-final berth.
Jarrad said it was the pure intent of his players which ultimately gave them the victory.
“It was our desire to cover their lateral exits which made the difference,” he said.
“They try to spread and make the ground big and get outside you.
“Our ability to keep the ball skinny on our terms gave us the chance to win.”
Jarrad said in the past his side had often folded when the pressure was on and teams created a handy lead, but that was not the case on Sunday.
“The last quarter the boys just kept coming,” he said.
“They just gave everything right to the final whistle.
“It was a terrific tussle.”
The Cats now face a bigger hurdle in West Gambier and the preliminary final if they are to progress any further.
“Our mind set will not change this weekend,” he said.
“Every game is a bonus for us.
“We set out to make the four and give ourselves an opportunity from the start of the year.
“We did that and what happens from here, we will just take it as it comes.
“We will go out and enjoy our football, back our system and make sure we give everything we can.”