A FINAL-QUARTER surge saw Penola Reserves footballers claim the Kowree Naracoorte Tatiara premiership flag on Saturday at McCorquindale Park.
The Eagles defeated Border Districts by a huge margin of 48 points, but until the final change it was anyone’s game.
On their home deck the Eagles started favourites, but with little between the two sides during the minor rounds there was no time for complacency.
That showed on the scoreboard as the visitors kicked out to an early nine-point advantage.
It could have been far worse was it not for inaccuracy in front of goals, which gave the Eagles the chance to close the margin down with the wind in the second term.
After the break Penola certainly turned its fortunes around on the prevailing wind, with eight second-quarter goals to take a strong 27-point advantage to the main break.
As expected Borders hit back in the third, but could not use to the wind to advantage as well as the Eagles had.
They did close to within less than a straight kick before Penola added a couple late to go to the last break with a handy 16-point lead.
From there it was a matter of how much as the Eagles applied the blowtorch.
They kept the pressure up until the final siren, with seven last-quarter goals to run out emphatic victors.
Coach Jon Copping was a major focal point up forward, finishing the day with eight goals.
He was joined by Allan McIntyre who bagged seven.
Tom Clayfield was the only other multiple goal scorer with two to his name.
However, it was Sam Gartner who was named best on ground for the game and topped Penola’s list, ahead of Copping, Louis Merrett, Conan Devereux, captain Will Clayfield and Justin Mansell.
Copping said he was pleased with the final result, which showed his side’s fitness levels, but also the players’ resolve to remain in the contest early and push hard when it the opportunity presented.
“We knew Borders were going to be hard at it,” he said.
“They got away to a good start and kicked a lot of points in the first quarter, which probably kept us in the game.
“They had the breeze and I thought we hung on really well.
“When it was our turn in the second quarter we kicked eight goals.
“Our intensity was really good which was the main focus for us.
“The boys did a great job.”
Despite a handy lead at half time, Copping said he expected Borders to come back hard in the third term with the wind.
They did that, but the Eagles were able to hold on, which was pleasing for the coach.
“Our focus was to not let them get back in front with that breeze,” Copping said.
“When we got a couple of late goals, then kicked the first one of the last quarter I was feeling confident.
“We had the wind at our back and I was confident in the boys’ fitness levels to run the game out well.”
The Eagles certainly did just that, with seven last-quarter goals to drive the result home.
“I knew we would finish strong,” Copping said.
“The last three or four goals came when the game was over, but I was happy the boys played the game out and it was a good reward.”
Copping said much of the drive forward came from the mid field, where the likes of Gartner, Clayfield and Mansell worked hard to clear the ball.
That spread out to the wings where Lewis March and Tom Gibbs held their own.
Up against what Coping described as a strong mid field, it was a credit to the hard work of the Eagles.
Copping said nine of the players had been involved in the previous three grand finals, with the remainder a younger group, which he thought combined well.
But he said much of the credit for the result and the way the players ran the game out must go to senior coach Matt Tilby.
“I would like to thank our A Grade coach Matthew Tilby,” Copping said.
“For two years he put a lot of time and effort in.
“It was disappointing when the A Grade bowed out, so we wanted to take something from those two years.
“Our fitness level and the commitment Matt got out of the whole playing group was great.
“We were probably the fittest side in the league and he should take a lot of credit for that.
“He set that up with the work he did – I just steered the ship, but he put it in the right direction.”