HUNTLY withstood a furious last-quarter surge from Colbinabbin on Sunday to book its spot in the Heathcote District league preliminary final.
The Hawks won 14.16 (100) to 12.12 (84) in tricky and cold conditions and for the third time in the past five seasons will now meet rivals North Bendigo in the preliminary final for the right to take on Leitchville-Gunbower for the flag.
The Hawks looked like they would coast to victory in the first semi-final at North Bendigo when they led Colbinabbin – who had kicked just seven goals – by 33 points at three quarter-time.
But with their backs to the wall, Colbinabbin lifted and unleashed a five-goal burst in the first 12 minutes of the final term as a game that had been meandering along with Huntly in control for most of it sprung to life.
The Hawks could barely get their hands on the ball as Colbinabbin coach Nick Knight (two), Damien Carmody, David Price and Tim O’Dwyer all kicked goals in an re-energised 12-minute blitz.
O’Dwyer’s goal when he marked a pass from Knight closed the Hawks’ lead to just two points. What had been a game they had on their terms for much of the day was all of a sudden in danger of slipping from the Hawks’ grasp.
However, Huntly halted Colbinabbin’s momentum with a steadying goal to Chris Gleeson, who slotted his fourth with a snap, and when Daniel Paterson surged from a stoppage to add another, the Hawks were preliminary final-bound.
“Colbo came at us hard in the last quarter, but it was pleasing the way we were able to turn the momentum and find a way to win,” Huntly co-coach Jamie Hogan said.
Stacy Fiske (hamstring niggle) and Michel Ryan (groin) both ended the game on the sidelines for the Hawks, who were never headed from the six-minute mark of the second quarter.
The Hawks led by 22 points at half-time – 6.11 to 3.7 – but squandered the chance to be further in front after blowing plenty of chances inside 50 in the second quarter.
The Hawks – whose first six set-shots of the game were all behinds – dominated play in the second term, yet were wayward in front of goal with a return of 5.8.
The Grasshoppers added four goals in the third term, but couldn’t string together the multiple goals in a row they needed as the Hawks answered each one – and added another two – to extend their advantage to 33 points at the final change.
The loss was the second year in a row the Grasshoppers have bowed out in the first semi-final to finish fourth.
“We gave ourselves a sniff in the last quarter, but to Huntly’s credit, we just couldn’t get our noses in front and they were able to answer what we threw at them,” said reappointed Colbinabbin coach Knight, who kicked 3.5 for the game.
“The boys showed a lot of character in the last quarter and really gritted their teeth.”