The Sandringham Dragons have booked a preliminary final bout with the Oakleigh Chargers after defeating the wounded North Ballarat Rebels in the second semi-final of the TAC Cup finals series at Visy Park, trailing at the final change, the Dragons overran the Rebels in the final quarter booting seven goals to one to win 15.8.98 to 9.12.66. Josh Clayton led the way on the scoreboard for the winners with three goals, all in the last quarter, while Jordan Matera and Malcolm Neiwand both booted two. Joel Cowan was the leading goal-kicker for the Rebels with three and centre-half-back, Oscar McDonald kicked two after shifting forward in the second-half.
An eventful first quarter saw the Dragons boot the first three goals to jump the Rebels. At the twenty-minute mark the Rebel's lost forward Jacob Wheelahan to a shoulder injury sustained in a marking contest, teammate Jesse Palmer converted the free kick awarded to Wheelahan to get the Rebels moving.
They booted the next three goals to take a one point lead into the first change and were looking dangerous going into attack. Danger man Palmer was involved and Joel Cowan was providing a spark deep in attack.
In the second term Sandringham began to assert some control with runners Nicholas Pavlou and Malcolm Neiwand finding the footy while down back Ed Vickers-Willis contained Palmer. The Dragons went to the main break eleven points in front 7.6.48 to 5.7.37 and appeared to have the edge.
Rebel's centre-half-back Oscar McDonald was moved forward in the third term in an attempt to add some fire-power. North Ballarat was down on rotations with a leg injury to Matthew Johnston confining him to crutches and Wheelahan already out of the game.
A leg injury to Daniel Butler added to the Rebel's concerns as they desperately tried to remain in the contest. The move of McDonald to the forward line paid dividends as he kicked two third-quarter-goals to arrest the lead.
Rhona Conboy was resolute down back for the Rebels and the lightly framed Nicholas Weightman was providing dash through the midfield. Dragon Angus Brayshaw marked close to goal in the dying seconds but failed to convert with a kick after the siren. The Rebels holding a three point lead at the final change.
The Legends Stand end had been the scoring end all day and it didn’t change in the last quarter as the Dragons booted three quick goals to not only arrest the lead but end the Rebels’ season. The Rebels were gallant with men going down and scoring options limited.
However Sandringham had all the run in the final term and their slick ball movement carved their way to, in the end, a comprehensive win. Better players for the Dragons included Brayden Maynard, Tom Wilkinson, Neiwand, Vickers-Willis and Harley Balic while for the Rebels Rowan Marshall, Cowan, Jonathon Neville, Nicholas Weightman and Palmer.
The Dragons must beat the Chargers for a chance at the premiership while the other preliminary final will be decided between flag favourites the Calder Cannons and the Dandenong Stingrays.