THE 2017 BFNL finals series is becoming one for the ages after another thriller on Sunday as Golden Square knocked arch-rival Sandhurst out of the flag race.
In what was the third of the four finals played so far decided by less than a kick, the Bulldogs outlasted the Dragons by four points in the first semi-final at the Queen Elizabeth Oval.
It was a game marred by missed opportunities from both teams as they combined to kick 13.28 on a perfect September afternoon.
The Bulldogs didn’t score for the last 20 minutes of the game, but their backline was resolute in repelling the Dragons as they held on to win 7.13 (55) to 6.15 (51).
“It’s probably relief at the moment to get over the line,” Bulldogs coach Bernie Haberman said.
“I was really proud of the team and it was one of those games that was a fantastic contest. I don’t think it’s an injustice that we won, and it wouldn’t have been an injustice had they won.
“They had momentum at times, we had it at times, contested footy would have been even… there wasn’t much between the teams.”
For the second time this memorable finals series in which the four games have been decided by margins of nine, five, four and three points, Golden Square will now take on Strathfieldsaye, this time in the preliminary final next Saturday, while for Sandhurst the dream of back-to-back flags is over.
The Bulldogs will be sweating this week on the fitness of star on-baller Adam Baird (ribs), who left the field during the third quarter.
The Bulldogs and Dragons couldn’t be split at three quarter-time with scores level 5.11 apiece after Sandhurst had clawed its way back from an 11-point deficit during the third term.
Golden Square made the early running in the final term, kicking the first two goals of the quarter through Tom Toma – a 50m beauty from a stoppage – and Dylan Johnstone.
Johnstone’s goal at the eight-minute mark was Golden Square’s final score of the game as the Dragons did the bulk of the attacking for the remainder of the match, but as they had throughout, struggled to make it count on the scoreboard.
The Dragons’ first three scores of the final term were all behinds, before Brodie Montague goaled from a scrimmage to cut the margin back to three points with 2:30 left on the clock.
The Dragons again pressed hard and had a late chance to hit the front when teenager Rourke Turner took a set-shot tucked on the boundary in the pocket following a Golden Square out-on-the-full. But in what was the final score of the game, Turner’s check-side shot missed as the Dragons finished four points in arrears.
In a game where goals were at a premium with just 13 scored, key forward Johnstone’s three – which included two long-range beauties – were pivotal for the Bulldogs. He ended the game as the only multiple goal-kicker.
The grunt work of captain Jack Geary and the run of Toma through the midfield was telling for the Bulldogs, while Jon Coe, Clayton Anderson, Brayden Dorrington, Michael Dalrymple, Will Lee and co in defence were outstanding.
Dorrington played the game out after earlier dislocating his shoulder in the opening minute.