MIDWAY through the first quarter of Saturday’s Sandhurst versus Eaglehawk clash you knew the Dragons were in for a long day.
With their season on the line, the Hawks were hungry for the contest and were going to leave no stone unturned in their bid to topple the top of the table Dragons.
On the other side of the equation Sandhurst lacked the spark and run that had been a hallmark of its rise to the top of the ladder.
It was almost as if the Dragons had already conceded defeat to the Strathfieldsaye Storm in the race for the minor premiership and the game with Eaglehawk meant nothing.
Take nothing away from the Hawks’ performance.
In the words of Sandhurst coach Brett Fitzpatrick, Eaglehawk “monstered” the Dragons in the 10.10 (70) to 7.9 (51) win.
“We were lucky the margin was only three goals,’’ Fitzpatrick said.
“They monstered us around the ball from the start and they continued to monster us.
“Eaglehawk tested us the first time we played and we responded. They tested us again today and we couldn’t respond.
“It was far from our best football and we need to have a good look at ourselves.”
For Eaglehawk coach Luke Monaghan, the win was not just about making the finals.
The Hawks hadn’t beaten a top five side all season prior to Saturday.
“We wanted respect ,’’ Monaghan said.
“We had our backs to the wall and the boys responded to the do or die situation.
“We’ve had a habit this year of pushing good sides for three-and-a-half quarters but a 10 or 15 minute lapse has hurt us.
“Today we maintained that intensity for four quarters and we got the result.”
Eaglehawk’s win was built around an even spread of contributions.
Midfielders Ben McPhee and Brodie Collins led the charge in the middle, while the Borough’s backline restricted Sandhurst to just 16 scoring shots.
Tyler Miles, Brenton Conforti and Glenn Daley were again outstanding across half-back.
The impact of rookie wingman Sam Thompson and first gamer Lachie Atherton (two goals) also shouldn’t be underestimated.
While the Hawks had a plethora of good players, Sandhurst had few four-quarter performers.
The absence of skipper Blair Holmes stood out. The Dragons sorely missed his grunt work at the stoppages and his on-field leadership.
Full-forward Ryan Haythorpe (calf) and Harry O’Meara (flu) were late withdrawals for the Dragons, but both will play in the qualifying final.
Eaglehawk has an injury list to rival Collingwood. Monaghan wasn’t confident about regaining any players for the elimination final with Golden Square.
That might not matter – the 22 players who wore the Two Blues’ jumper on Saturday have the confidence and momentum to give Golden Square a mighty scare.