HEATHCOTE won an absorbing Heathcote District Football League elimination final against Leitchville-Gunbower today in a game that wasn’t decided until after the final siren.
With the Saints clinging to a two-point lead at North Bendigo, the Bombers’ Jye Keath was awarded a free-kick for a too-high tackle seconds before the final siren.
Keath took his set-shot at goal from outside 50 after the siren, but his drop punt landed short in the goalsquare, leaving the Saints 14.11 (95) to 14.9 (93) victors.
It was a gutsy win by the Saints, who recovered from a three-goal deficit during the final quarter to keep their season alive.
“It was a very intense game of footy,” first-year Heathcote coach Grant Ford said.
“We managed to peg it back from three goals down during the last quarter... it was the Saints’ spirit that won it for us again.
“We’ve been the underdogs all year, but we fight and fight until the final siren and the boys showed plenty of grit and determination today.
“We didn’t want to be going out of the finals in the first week, we want to keep proving the critics wrong and we’re now through to next week, which is fantastic.”
In what was a tight tussle all game, the biggest margin between the two sides at any of the breaks was the 13 points Heathcote led by at quarter-time after it got away to a strong start.
Wingman Darcy McLean continued his outstanding season to be the Saints’ best player.
Defender Nathan Bake, ruckman Daniel Russell, onballer Marc Millard (three goals) and Chris Chilcott also played strong games for the Saints.
Saints’ forward Reece Carmichael kicked four goals.
The loss ends a season of major improvement for the Bombers.
Today's finals appearance – the club’s first since joining the HDFL in 2010 – came on the back of the Bombers claiming the wooden-spoon last year.
Already missing Jake Williams (knee), the Bombers had key playmaker Russell Lee (ill) pull out, while Cameron Carter was forced from the ground during the first quarter with concussion.
“We were lacking a bit through the midfield today and they were able to get on top in there late in the game,” said Bombers coach Marty Shadbolt, who kicked five goals.
“We couldn’t get the job done unfortunately and it’s disappointing, but looking at the bigger picture, we’ve made some really big inroads as a club this year.
“We came from a fair way back after last year, but hopefully, we can go on from here and be competitive again next year.”
Shadbolt, who played at centre half-forward, full-back Sam Hawkins, Kade Merlo (two goals) and Ben Embleton, who was stretchered off the ground in the last quarter with an ankle injury, led the Bombers’ better players.
Heathcote’s two point win yesterday followed the Saints’ one-point victory over the Bombers in round 12.