REIGNING premiers Traralgon was bundled out of the finals race yesterday when a revitalised Leongatha beat it by 21 points at Moe.
Leongatha’s form in recent weeks has been nothing to write home about but it put all its troubles behind it to advance to the preliminary final against Maffra.
On a good surface the Parrots attacked solidly for the first quarter but the Traralgon defence, led by Jamie Aitken, stood firm and restricted Leongatha to 2.4.
Traralgon struggled up the other end of the ground and was held scoreless.
It was almost 17 minutes before it got the ball deep into its forward zone.
Leongatha’s defence, led superbly by David Gourdis and Rhett McLennan, made it look easy and had no trouble transitioning their side into attack.
In the first term Leongatha had 17 inside 50 metre entries to Traralgon’s eight.
Josh Jennings kicked Traralgon’s first goal after two minutes in the second quarter but by half-time the Maroons still trailed by 13 points.
Dwayne Holt was proving a handful up forward, kicking three in the first half and six for the match.
Matt Lewellin gave the Maroons some hope in the third term with two goals but Jake Best kicked the last two of the quarter.
His second came after he was felled and received a 50 metre penalty right on three-quarter-time.
This was the spark that Leongatha needed.
Lee Stockdale, with four goals, was Traralgon’s most damaging forward kicking three last quarter goals but the Leongatha defence was solid all day.
Mark Collison, Michael Cooper and Jack Doderico also had big games for the Maroons.
Traralgon had a number of players who came in and out of the game but it was Leongatha that played four quarters of football.
Zac Vernon was Leongatha’s best and David Gourdis at centre half-back was a strong defender in the air and at ground level.
Leongatha did not have too many passengers and Pat Kindellan, Hayden Browne and Roy Mullens played their part in a great win.
Overall statistics showed Leongatha won the inside 50s 53 to 38, marks 65 to 44 and free kicks were even at 26 all.
Sale booked a place in the grand final with an emphatic win over a struggling Maffra in Saturday’s second semi-final at Traralgon.
In blustery conditions with traditional ill feeling never far away, the Magpies jumped out of the blocks quickly setting up a 25-point lead before the Eagles rallied to kick three goals in as many minutes to trail by seven points at the first break.
Matt Ferguson was dominant at full-forward and by half-time he had five goals to his name including one that would have done a soccer striker proud.
Maffra’s forward line was non-existent in the second term with Gary Jones kicking their only goal.
The cross wind kept play on the eastern side of the Traralgon ground as players battled the elements.
Maffra had most of the play in the final term but goals were scarce while Sale went into attack and made it look too easy.
Ferguson capped off a great captain’s game when he kicked his sixth after the final siren.
Shane Fyfe was Sale’s best player and was in the action all day while Ferguson and John Gooch played well with three goals each.
Sale’s big men adapted to the conditions well and had their counterparts well covered.
Kane Fraser, in recognition of his 250th game for the Magpies, was carried from the field after the game.
Gary Jones, who has been appointed coach of Lucknow for next season, tried hard all day but the Eagles were simply outclassed.
Morwell reserves progressed to the preliminary final against Leongatha with a six point win over Maffra.
In a close contest the Tigers were led well by Matt Scholz and big ruckman Mario Marino to come from eight points down at the last break to snatch victory late in the final term.
Braydon Darby-Lock and Jack Wyhoon were good for the Tigers while Josh Davis with three goals was Maffra’s best player.