FIVE down – three to go.
That’s the approach Sandhurst is taking as it strives to win back-to-back BFNL premierships.
With four rounds left in the home and away season and the Dragons sitting outside the top five, coach Wayne Primmer simplified the scenario for his side.
They needed to win their last four home and away games to make the finals, and then win four finals to capture the flag again.
Having ticked off the four home and away wins to finish fourth on the ladder, the Dragons won their first knockout final on Sunday when they put the dagger in Kyneton’s season.
For the third time in their past five meetings, less than a kick separated the two sides in the elimination final as the Dragons won by five points, 12.18 (90) to 13.7 (85), in blustery QEO conditions.
The Dragons now push onto the first semi-final against Golden Square next Sunday, while for the third year in a row Kyneton has bowed out in the elimination final.
However, as has been the story of the season for the Dragons, they finished the game wounded, including another left knee injury to star ruckman Tim Martin.
In a scene reminiscent of round 14 against Eaglehawk, Martin fell to the ground after a centre contest in pain and was helped from the field in the arms of two trainers during the third quarter.
Nick Stagg was also hampered again by a leg problem and Zac East with an ankle injury, although, both played the game out.
Kyneton led the Dragons by two points midway through the final quarter of what had been been a tight contest where the biggest margin separating the sides to that stage had been 12 points.
However, in an 11-minute burst the Dragons gained the momentum and appeared to have finally cracked the game wide open with four unanswered goals through Seb Greene (two), Brodie Montague and Alex Wharton to lead by 23 points.
But two undisciplined Sandhurst acts that resulted in Kyneton goals courtesy of 50m penalties awarded to Mitch Scholard and Darcy Kelly brought the Tigers back within 10 points with 1:30 left to play.
The Dragons had given the Tigers a sniff, but they held on, with the margin when the final siren sounded 11 points, before Kyneton’s gun forward Ben Weightman threaded a superb goal from the boundary in the South Bendigo clubrooms pocket – his sixth for the game.
“When we got 23 points up at the 25-minute mark I knew we weren’t going to lose, but to give away two 50m penalties that cost us goals, we’ll have to talk about that,” Primmer said.
“To get out to that 23-point lead, I thought we ran them off their feet.”
In their most critical meeting of the season, Sunday was the first time Sandhurst beat Kyneton this year. They drew in round four, before the Tigers won by 21 points in round 13.
“Last time I felt they bullied us around the ball because they were physically bigger, so we set ourselves today to make sure we weren’t going to be pushed around again,” Primmer said.
In his 50th senior match, Greene played a lively game for the Dragons kicking three goals, while Andrew Collins, who started the game forward, made his mark in the second half through the midfield.
Captain Blair Holmes won plenty of crucial possessions during the last quarter when the game was in the balance, while Montague and Lee Coghlan were also solid for Sandhurst.
As well as Greene’s three, Montague and East (two) were also multiple goalkickers for the Dragons.