West Preston-Lakeside continued its push to defend its Meadows Greyhounds Division 1 title, advancing to the preliminary final after a 46-point triumph over Heidelberg in the first semi final.
The reigning premier took an 11-point advantage into the main break after a tight first half in wet conditions, but a seven-goal to one goal second half blitz saw the Roosters comfortably claim an 11.6 (72) to 3.8 (26) victory at Preston City Oval.
They will meet North Heidelberg in the preliminary final for the second successive season, where the winner will earn the right to take on Greensborough in the premiership decider.
Heidelberg became the first side in five years to exit the Meadows Greyhounds Division 1 finals in straight sets, which will no doubt be a tough pill to swallow after finishing the regular season in second place with a 14-4 record.
West Preston-Lakeside’s back line was superb all day, led by Joel McDonald who was best afield in a blanketing job on star Heidelberg forward Chaz Sargeant. Jackson Clarke, Nick Robortella and Nathan Valladares also performed well to keep the Tigers to just three majors.
Ahmed Saad again starred on the big stage. Saad kicked four majors and put on a show for the spectators who braved the cold conditions, providing several incredible highlights – including a spectacular opening-term goal and a specky for the ages in the third quarter.
One of the matchups of the day was between young Roosters ruckman Matthew Harman and Heidelberg star Sam Gilmore. Both played great games, as Harman well and truly held his own, while Gilmore provided his midfielders with some textbook hitouts.
Despite the result, Tom Sullivan backed up last week’s best on ground performance by being the Tigers best player once again. After kicking three goals in the final quarter when swung forward last week, Sullivan returned to defence and was outstanding, taking countless intercept marks in wet conditions.
Last year’s Frank Rosbrook medallist Michael Brunelli finished off another great season in style. Brunelli was a workhorse in the midfield, winning many clearances and regularly driving the ball forward for the Tigers with his lethal left foot.
Matthew Cecchin kicked the opening goal of the match to give Heidelberg the early lead, but the Roosters went on to kick three consecutive majors to end the term, including an unbelievable snap from Saad that involved a crisp pickup in the wet after starting his run on centre wing.
While there had already been rain falling in the first quarter, the second tern saw conditions deteriorate further, with the game becoming very congested in pouring rain.
It took until the 14-minute mark of the quarter for Alex Federico to kick the first goal, which gave the Roosters an 18-point lead, before a late goal from Sargeant was able to cut the deficit back to 11 points before half time.
It was a third-quarter blitz from West Preston-Lakeside that set up the win. The rain went away and the Roosters thrived, piling on 5.0 to 1.2 to take a commanding 33-point lead into three quarter time.
Aidan Tilley, Robortella and Daniel Valeri kicked three consecutive goals to start the third term, which pushed the Roosters’ lead out to 28 points, before Josh Minogue was able to stop the bleeding with a goal from close range to give the Tigers a last glimpse of hope.
However, goals from Tilley and Saad to end the quarter saw the Roosters take a 33-point lead into the final break, all but crushing Heidelberg’s chances of a comeback due to the heavy conditions.
Unlike a week earlier, the Tigers showed no signs of a fightback in the fourth quarter, with the Roosters kicking the only two goals of the final term courtesy of Saad and Mitch Crapper to storm to a 46-point victory.
After a 0-6 start to the season, the reigning premier has now won 12 of its past 14 matches as it continues its bid to be the first team this decade to defend a premiership in the top flight.
Final score: Heidelberg 3.8 (26) def by West Preston-Lakeside 11.6 (72)
Goal Kickers: M. Cecchin, J. Minogue, C. Sargeant
Best Players: T. Sullivan, M. Brunelli, S. Gilmore, R. Stone, N. Honey, F. Carroll
Goal Kickers: A. Saad 4, A. Tilley 3, M. Crapper, N. Robortella, D. Valeri, A. Federico
Best Players: J. McDonald, J. Tadd, A. Saad, M. Harman, N. Robortella, M. Vincitorio