GOLDEN Square did just enough to edge out a hard-running Eaglehawk outfit by a single point at MyJet Oval on Saturday.
In the game-of-the-season the Bulldogs battled back from a two-goal deficit late in the final quarter to ease home by the smallest of margins.
The Hawks landed the opening three goals of the last term with on-ballers Ben McPhee and Sam Harper on top at the stoppages.
Then best afield Adam Baird sparked a late Square resurgence. Spearhead Dylan Johnstone landed his fourth goal from 15 metres out and skipper Jack Geary capitalised on a Chris Ryan handball to hammer home the Dogs’ ninth goal and tie the game up.
A Comanche Walls behind from a set shot at the 27-minute mark – his fourth minor of the day, including a poster – handed the home side their one-point win: 9.14 (68) to the Hawks’ 9.13 (67).
The other important statistic from the game was Johnstone’s success in the Ron Best Medal as the BFNL’s leading goalkicker.
His four goals gave him 79 for the season, two ahead of Eaglehawk’s Matt Gretgrix who nailed only one major for a 2016 tally of 77.
The Hawks couldn’t buy a goal in the opening quarter yet they still went to the long break ahead by 10 points.
While McPhee, Gretgrix and Brock Rogers all scored points Square’s Hamish Morcom, Tom Toma and Johnstone – with a long, booming shot – all hammered home majors.
Then the tide turned. Eaglehawk drove home five unanswered second quarter majors at the Maple Street end, mastering the tricky cross-breeze.
Best of these was Rogers’ second of the quarter. He almost lost his footing, but recovered and kept going to land a timely Hawks’ major.
Trailing by 10 points at the long break, the Square needed to lift. Johnstone and non-stop runner Adam Baird nailed much-needed goals.
Then Johnstone took a strong overhead mark as Isaac Miller passed inboard after intercepting an Eaglehawk clearing move.
Gretgrix finally broke the Hawks’ goal drought when he was on line for the visitors’ first major in 26 minutes.
And when McPhee, Damian Wust and Anthony Franchina (with a clever off the side of the boot slider) were all on target early in the final term suddenly the Hawks were two goals up.
Then came the Adam Baird and Tom Toma-inspired fightback. Michael Roberts was also a more than handy in-and-under scrapper while Travis Baird joined Dale Young in shutting down the Eaglehawk attack.
Young’s influence in negating Gretgrix was pivotal.
While pleased to get the win Square coach Nick Carter wanted his playing group to get as close to each other as possible.
“We have to aim at the highest standard possible. There’s only a month left in this season so we have to ensure we engage in the most thorough preparation we can,” he told his players.
KANGAROO Flat fell 4.22 per cent short of making fifth spot and the 2016 BFNL finals even though they disposed of Castlemaine on Saturday night.
In the final game in charge for the two coaches Jason Stevens (KF) and Shane Robertson (Cm) the Roos led all evening and ran out convincing 69-point winners.
The percentage deficit to fifth-placed Kyneton can be put down to a trio of heavy defeats suffered by the Flat in their previous three outings.
Key forwards Cameron Rinaldi and Trent McInnes finally fired for the Roos landing 11 goals between them.
Tommy Horne and James O’Brien were in the Magpies’ best.
SANDHURST survived a scare from a fired-up Kyneton to win by 33 points and secure its first minor premierships in 15 years.
The Tigers went on a stunning nine-goal third quarter rampage leaving the Dragons with a big task in the final term
But led by Kristan Height, Matt Thornton and Lachlan Ross the Dragons responded, nailing seven goals of their own as the quarter wound down.
That trio of player kicked 11 goals between them while the Tigers suffered injuries to small forward Ben Weightman and on-baller Jarrod Witnish, both off the field injured in the vital last term.
Kyneton ruckman Nick Higginson was again in great form showing he’ll be a handful for the Eaglehawk big men in Sunday’s sudden death elimination final.
In an interesting statistic 33 of the past 36 minor premiers in the BFNL have gone on to play in that season’s grand final.
STRATHFIELDSAYE suffered more injury worries at Gisborne on Saturday leaving senior co-coach Daryl Wilson lamenting that his club “couldn’t take a trick.”
Wilson’s coaching offsider Bryce Curnow and running half-back Tom Dowd both suffered hamstring injuries.
But they still belted a young Gisborne outfit by 88 points after the home Dogs landed the first four goals of the match.
The Storm then kicked the next 17 with swingman Jayden Donaldson nailing four majors for the match.
Fergus Payne, Jake Moorhead and Josh Formosa were all in the best for Strathfieldsaye.
Gisborne’s best included Trent Crosbie, veteran Anthony Belcher and Eamon McKenna.
SOUTH Bendigo ended the season with three wins on the trot after disposing of winless Maryborough by 77 points.
And it gave the Bloods their fifth win for 2016, one more than 12 months earlier.
Coach Brady Childs was delighted. “It’s the first time since 2013 we’ve won three games in a row so we can really look forward to next season,” he said.
But the Magpies were extra competitive in the first half. They trailed by just two points at quarter time and by four goals at half-time.
Alex Hywood was South’s stand-out across half-forward while stringbean ruckman Kieran Strachan was another fine player.
Veteran Cam Skinner and Justin Laird were in Maryborough’s best.
Final scores: Sandhurst 17.14 (116) def. Kyneton 12.11 (83); Strathfieldsaye 20.13 (133) def. Gisborne 6.9 (45), South Bendigo 19.23 (137) def. Maryborough 9.6 (60); Kangaroo Flat 21.14 (140) def. Castlemaine 10.13 (73) and Golden Square 9.14 (68) def. Eaglehawk 9.13 (67).
Top five, final standings: Sandhurst 16 wins-2 losses, 64 points, 208%; Golden Square 15 wins-3 losses, 60, 208%; Strathfieldsaye 14-4, 56, 168%; Eaglehawk 10-8, 40, 136% and Kyneton 10-8, 40, 107.88%.
This week – Saturday, Qualifying final, 5.30 pm: Golden Square vs. Strathfieldsaye.
Sunday, elimination final, 2.20 pm: Eaglehawk vs. Kyneton.
All games in all grades at the Queen Elizabeth Oval.