SANDHURST v GISBORNE - 2.20pm Sunday at QEO.
Since 2000: Gisborne 22; Sandhurst 12.
Last final: 2013 elimination final - Gisborne 17.12 (114) d Sandhurst 10.13 (73).
This season's meetings:
Round 7: Sandhurst 19.20 (134) d Gisborne 9.7 (61).
Round 16: Sandhurst 18.18 (126) d Gisborne 8.9 (57).
SANDHURST and Gisborne will battle it out on Sunday for the chance to move a step closer to the Bendigo Football League grand final.
The Dragons and Bulldogs clash in the qualifying final at the Queen Elizabeth Oval.
Sandhurst sat on top of the ladder for 14 of the 18 rounds, but squandered the chance last Saturday to get the first week of the finals off when it was upset by Eaglehawk by 19 points at the QEO and slipped to second.
It was only the second loss of the year for the Dragons, while the Bulldogs hit the finals on the back of a 116-point belting of Kangaroo Flat, which was playing for its season.
While the Bulldogs finished just one rung below the Dragons on the ladder, they proved no match for Sandhurst in both encounters this season, losing by margins of 73 and 69 points.
In both losses - the second of which was only three weeks ago - the Bulldogs were swamped by the relentless pressure of the Dragons, which has been a key area of focus for Gisborne coach Rod Sharp in the lead-up to the return bout.
Awaiting the winner in next weekend’s second semi-final is Strathfieldsaye.
Brett Fitzpatrick (Sandhurst) - “It’s a great time of the year to be involved and our approach this week is to get back to our best footy, which was primarily at the start of the year.
“We’ve seen glimpses of getting back to it in the second half of the year, but obviously, we want to produce it for four quarters from here on.”
Rod Sharp (Gisborne) - “Our focus this week is simple and it’s all about executing our skills.
“Both times we’ve played Sandhurst they’ve dictated the game to us and had it all their way and we haven’t been able to hold onto possession or use the footy for a sustained period of time.
“They’ve played awesome footy against us both times, but if we can execute our skills and get some scoreboard pressure... finals are a different game and we’ll see how it goes from there.
“We know their best footy is very good, but for us, you don’t come out and beat Kangaroo Flat, which has just missed a finals spot, by the margin we did (116 points) without there being a good reason.
“We played some good footy last week and we’re confident our young kids can stand up and produce.”
TALE OF THE TAPE
Won: 16. Lost: 2.
Average for: 116.4. Against: 57.9.
Quarters won: 59/72.
Won: 13. Lost: 5.
Average for: 108.6. Against: 71.9.
Quarters won: 46/72.