LOCKINGTON- Bamawm United has assured itself of a top-of-the-ladder finish in the Heathcote District league, while Mount Pleasant has locked in its first double chance for 15 years.
They are the two key outcomes from Saturday's pair of round 17 blockbuster matches featuring the top four teams pitted against each other.
At Lockington, the Cats made sure top spot and pole position for the finals was theirs for the keeping after avenging their only loss of the season against Colbinabbin in round eight in the clash of 1st vs 2nd.
Just six goals were kicked in a grinding first half as the Grasshoppers led 4.2 to 2.6 at the main break.
But the game opened up in the second half and the Cats assumed control, kicking 11 goals to three to surge clear and win 13.13 (91) to 7.5 (47).
"It was a battle of the half-back lines in that first half and a bit of a slogfest," LBU coach Brodie Collins said.
"We missed some chances in the first half that we should have kicked, but we were better at taking our chances in the second half.
"We did a lot right in that first half, but just couldn't finish, so it was pleasing the way we were able to capitalise after half-time and open the game up.
"That's two weeks in a row now we've either been level or down at half-time against a quality opponent and been able to lift when challenged in the second half."
Saturday's win by 44 points after being eight points down at half-time for the Cats came a week after they had been level with North Bendigo at half-time before going on to comfortably win by 38 points.
Saturday's win moves the 14-1 Cats six points clear at the top of the ladder with one round remaining, guaranteeing a berth in the August 20 second semi-final against either Colbinabbin or Mount Pleasant.
"It's obviously pleasing to have that top spot secured. No disrespect to Elmore, but we'll probably have a couple of guys have next week off to freshen up and be cherry ripe for that first final," Collins said.
"We set ourselves a goal heading into these past three games (against Colbinabbin, North Bendigo and Mount Pleasant) that we wanted to go 3-0 and it's pleasing to do, particularly with Jeremy Mundie, Bart Phillips, Ben Fulford and Tommy Leech to come back into today's side."
Collins was full of praise for the defensive job of Fraser Monohan on Grasshoppers' dangerman James Brain (one goal).
"Fraser was just super... I don't remember him losing a contest all game," Collins said.
"Charlie Hinks at centre half-back was really good, but it really was one of those games where we had 22 players who did their role in a really good team effort."
Jarod Bacon, Nathan Bacon, Lachlan Collins in his first senior game of the season and Anthony McMahon all kicked two goals for the Cats.
Minus injured star Jed Brain, Saturday's game played out in reverse to the recent Colbinabbin trend of starting slowly and then finishing strongly in the second half.
Ruckman Hadleigh Sirett and midfielder Todd Clarke were the two best for the Grasshoppers, whose only multiple goalkicker was Sam Ryan (two).
For the first time since 2007 Mount Pleasant will enter a finals series with the safety net of a double chance.
The Blues secured a top-three finish and consigned North Bendigo to the elimination final with their 12.18 (90) to 9.8 (62) win over the Bulldogs at Toolleen.
The result, plus the LBU-Colbinabbin outcome, means the August 13 qualifying will be the Blues taking on the Grasshoppers.
The two sides will also meet at Colbinabbin in next Saturday's final round in what is now effectively a dead rubber.
"It's obviously a good result to get it (double chance) done today, but it was a game where we didn't make the most of our opportunities," Blues co-coach Darren Walsh said.
"I thought we started to get on top on the outside in the third quarter and ran the ball well, but you've got to win it on the inside first and I thought that was a highlight of our game today.
"Sam Greene was really good down back for us today, Chris Down was dominant in the ruck, Jesse Tuohey and Billy Mahony in the midfield played well and I thought Daniel Whiting did a really good job on Dylan Klemm."
The Blues' Ben Weightman was the leading goalkicker on the ground with four.
Following the previous week's loss to Lockington-Bamawm United, North Bendigo coach Rob Bennett was again disappointed in the Bulldogs' last quarter fade-out.
The Bulldogs had started the last quarter 10 points down before being outscored 3.4 to 0.4.
"Unfortunately, it was the same thing that happened last week in the last quarter... we just stopped working and competing, which was disappointing," Bennett said.
"To the players credit after the game, they owned it and identified some areas that they have to get better in and we've now got a couple of weeks to rectify that."
So consistent for so long has North Bendigo been, the back-to-back defeats to LBU and Mount Pleasant is the first time the Bulldogs have lost consecutive games since 2013.
The standout player for the Bulldogs - who have the bye in the final round - was midfielder Nick Waterson.
"Nick was outstanding for us. He won a lot of the footy and was also recognised by Mount Pleasant after the game as our best player," Bennett said.
Shane Harris and Ryan Alford in defence also played well, while Jordan Ford and Dylan Klemm kicked three goals each.
Hakeem Johnson (hamstring tightness) didn't play after quarter-time.
White Hills will enter the final home and away round inside the top five after displacing Heathcote.
While the Saints had the bye, White Hills disposed of Leitchville-Gunbower by 57 points at Gunbower to move into fifth spot.
The Bombers led by three points at the first break, 2.5 to 2.2, but the Demons kicked 12 goals to three over the last three quarters to win 14.13 (97) to 5.10 (40).
The equation is now simple for the Demons - beat Huntly at home next week and they play finals - otherwise they would be reliant on Heathcote losing to Leitchville-Gunbower to hold fifth spot.
The Demons are one game clear of Heathcote, but the Saints have a slight edge in percentage (85.8 to 84.2).
"It was a good win by the boys today," White Hills coach Jack Fallon said.
"Leitchy has some good young players, but I thought our second and third quarters were super and we did what we had to do, but we missed some chances in the last quarter."
The Demons outscored the Bombers 11.3 to 2.2 across the second and third quarters to bust the game wide open.
Liam Bartels (five) and James Davies (four) combined for nine goals for the Demons, who were superbly led by coach Fallon across half-back.
The better players for the Bombers were headed by the consistent Nathan McLellan and Sam Lewis.
The day featured a big milestone with stalwart Craig Taylor playing his 400th senior grade game for the Bombers in the reserves match.
Huntly had the better of the second half of its clash against Elmore to win its second game of the season.
Elmore led by three points at half-time, but the Hawks kicked eight goals to four after the break to win 13.14 (92) to 10.5 (65) at home.
"Elmore started really well; we got back into it late in the second quarter and were then able to play a good third quarter and set ourselves up for a win, which was pleasing for the boys," Huntly coach Stacy Fiske said.
"We've been close in a lot of games this year, so it was good for the boys to be able to get over the line.
"We had Ben Hilson play his fourth senior game in the backline today and he really embraced our gamestyle and set us up really well.
"Mitch Christensen in the ruck was fantastic and Flynn Campbell up forward with four goals was a good target.
"Overall, it was a good team performance and good reward for the work the boys have put in."
For the third time in the past four games vice-captain Darcy Laffy kicked six goals for the Bloods, who were also well served by Nicholas Palmer and skipper Nick Kellow.
Lockington Bamawm United Seniors 1.4 2.6 8.10 13.13 (91)
Colbinabbin Seniors 1.1 4.2 5.2 7.5 (47)
GOALS: Lockington Bamawm United Seniors: L.Collins 2, A.McMahon 2, N.Bacon 2, J.Bacon 2, H.Cobb 1, J.Gardiner 1, J.Collins 1, R.McIvor 1, R.Woodland 1; Colbinabbin Seniors: S.Ryan 2, M.Hardiman 1, J.Bull 1, J.Brain 1, B.Southam 1, H.McMurtrie 1
BEST: Lockington Bamawm United Seniors: F.Monahan, C.Hinks, H.Cobb, N.Bacon, R.McIvor, J.Howlett; Colbinabbin Seniors: H.Sirett, T.Clarke, L.Fitzgerald, D.Price, S.Ryan, W.Lowe
Mount Pleasant Seniors 4.4 8.7 9.14 12.18 (90)
North Bendigo Seniors 4.1 7.2 9.4 9.8 (62)
GOALS: Mount Pleasant Seniors: B.Weightman 4, L.Marchesi 2, D.Tydell 2, R.McIvor 1, A.Baird 1, Z.Murrell 1, R.Mcnamara 1; North Bendigo Seniors: D.Klemm 3, J.Ford 3, J.Somerville 1, N.Waterson 1, J.Francis 1
BEST: Mount Pleasant Seniors: S.Greene, J.Tuohey, C.Down, D.Whiting, B.Hinneberg, R.Mcnamara; North Bendigo Seniors: N.Waterson, S.Harris, M.Rogers, R.Alford, B.Wingrave, S.Giri
White Hills Seniors 2.2 7.4 13.5 14.13 (97)
Leitchville Gunbower Seniors 2.5 3.6 4.7 5.10 (40)
GOALS: White Hills Seniors: L.Bartels 5, J.Davies 4, X.Meersbergen 1, N.McKinley 1, R.Irwin 1, B.Fallon 1, T.Conlan 1; Leitchville Gunbower Seniors: A.Windridge 1, B.Hawken 1, B.Taylor 1, B.Azzopardi 1, J.barrat 1
BEST: White Hills Seniors: J.Fallon, R.Irwin, T.Conlan, C.Kekich, L.Bartels, J.Davies; Leitchville Gunbower Seniors: N.McLellan, S.Lewis, A.Windridge, L.Shenfield, B.Azzopardi, B.Taylor
Huntly Seniors 4.4 5.6 10.10 13.14 (92)
Elmore Seniors 5.3 6.3 6.5 10.5 (65)
GOALS: Huntly Seniors: F.Campbell 4, L.Gray 2, J.Cordy 2, T.Miles 1, M.Jeffries 1, J.McDonald 1, S.Fiske 1, T.Mercadante 1; Elmore Seniors: D.Laffy 6, D.Gordon 2, K.Armstrong 1, M.Nettlefold 1
BEST: Huntly Seniors: J.Cowling, T.Miles, M.Christensen, M.Billings, F.Campbell, J.Cordy; Elmore Seniors: N.Palmer, N.Kellow, D.Gordon, R.Holmberg, K.Armstrong, D.Laffy
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