West Preston-Lakeside spoiled the party in Daniel Keenan’s record-breaking 400 game to move within one win of clinching a Meadows Greyhounds Division 1 finals berth.
The Roosters raced to a 24-point lead at quarter time and held sway for the remainder of the afternoon, despite the visitors showing plenty of spirit in the 7.15 (57) to 6.6 (42) result in heavy conditions at J.E. Moore Park.
The result handed the reigning premiers their eighth win from their past 10 starts and pushed them up into fourth spot on the ladder with two rounds remaining. They now must win just one of their final two matches against Bundoora and Macleod to ensure a top-five finish.
Ozgur Uysal returned after missing last week’s loss at Montmorency and had a major impact on the game. Uysal was clean and displayed great foot skills despite the tough conditions. He finished as the game’s only multiple goal scorer, with two majors.
Alex Federico continued his red-hot form and found plenty of the football through the middle of the ground. The young star’s clearance work was instrumental in giving the Roosters the upper hand from many stoppages.
Garrett McDonagh and Max Dreher both racked up disposals across half back and used the ball well. McDonagh’s penetration by foot was critical on a day when gaining meterage was essential.
Nathan Valladares and Jackson Clarke were resolute deep in defence, with Valladares getting the points in an absorbing battle with Bailey Jordan. Clarke also spent time in the ruck and competed well despite being undersized.
Mitch Hymus was Hurstbridge’s best player and won his duel against Ahmed Saad – keeping the Roosters superstar to one goal. It was another mighty effort by Hymus, who also kept Saad goalless when the sides met earlier this year.
Jamie Smith toiled hard in the ruck, while 18-year-old William Cookson showed promising signs in his fifth senior game for the club. He booted the goal of the day, with an over-the-head effort from the top of the goal square in the third term.
The match started with a celebration for Daniel Keenan – with both clubs forming a guard of honour as the league games record holder entered the field to standing ovation ahead of his 400th game.
However, his side was slow out of the gates, which proved costly on a day when scoring was hard to come by.
Uysal kicked the game’s first goal in the fourth minute when he unloaded from long range and bounced the ball through an open West Preston-Lakeside forward 50m.
The Bridges were their own worst enemy in the opening stages and regularly coughed the ball up when exiting their defensive half, although the Roosters didn’t take full advantage after squandering some early shots.
Saad managed to stretch the lead to 14 points when he converted a set shot, before Daniel Valeri ran into the open goal and added another just minutes before quarter time to give the home side a commanding 25-1 scoreline at the first change.
Hurstbridge managed to work its way back into the contest in the second term and notched its first goal when Jack Furlong converted after receiving a free kick and 50m penalty.
The Bridges kept the ball locked in their forward half for much of the opening 15 minutes, however the Roosters managed to snag a goal against the run of play when Jackson Clarke gathered a loose ball from a boundary throw-in and kicked truly.
A late Nick Milne goal cut the home side’s margin to 16 points at the main break and the result hung in the balance in the opening 10 minutes of the third term – with both defences holding up well.
Uysal broke the deadlock with a goal on his left foot after being left unmarked at a boundary throw-in, however Cookson kept the visitors in the contest at the last break with his miraculous effort in time-on – which proved the second and final goal of the term.
The Bridges made the best possible start to the final quarter when Bailey Jordan kicked truly in the opening 30 seconds, however Federico found a steadier at the other end five minutes later, which ensure the Roosters were never truly threatened in the final term.
Final score: West Preston-Lakeside 7.15 (57) def Hurstbridge 6.6 (42)