North Ballarat has all but assured themselves of a place in this year’s Peter Jackson VFL finals series after overrunning Coburg in the final quarter of their round 17 clash at Piranha Park. The Roosters held a slender five point lead at the final change but booted clear early into the last term to finally win by 26 points - 12.18.90 to 10.4.64.
In the corresponding game last year the Lions scored an upset win and a repeat was on the cards at three-quarter-time. The Roosters responded to coach Gerald Fitzgerald's plea to 'embrace the challenge' and 'get into it' kicking three quick goals to end any hope of a home side victory.
Early on however, North Ballarat was made to work hard as Coburg's smaller brigade, the likes of Daniel Venditti, Nathan Thomas and Nick Carnell, showed determination and grit at the contest. The Lions matched their more fancied opponents for outside run and coach Peter German couldn't question his side’s efforts in the first term trailing by just five points.
Coburg kicked the first three goals of the second quarter and edged clear before late goals to Nick Couch and Brad McKenzie (above) put the Roosters back in front at half-time leading 5.10.40 to 6.2.38. North Ballarat again squandered chances in front of goal during the term keeping the hopes of Lions fans on the terraces alive.
The Roosters increased their workload in the third quarter and managed to get a small break on the Lions. Trent Dumont kicked truly from deep in the pocket at the city end before the aggressive Lachlan George dobbed one from well out to give the Roosters a nine point lead after 20 minutes.
Zak Saad reduced the lead to just six points after marking close to goal moments before the three-quarter-time siren. The home side were close enough however North Ballarat's prime movers including Liam Anthony, George, Dumont and Nick Rippon were allowed too much space as the game wore on and needed to be kept in check.
With finals around the corner the Roosters couldn't afford a slip up and lifted accordingly in the last as they slammed on three quick goals. Dumont figured again in the last booting another for a game high three goals. North Ballarat proving stronger in the end thanks to some quality through the midfield and a former South Australian on the brink of AFL Kangaroo selection.
North Ballarat's major goal kickers included Dumont with three, Nick Couch, George, and McKenzie two each while for Coburg, Featherstone and Thomas kicked two each. Dumont was again superb for the Roosters with 35 disposals and ten marks, Max Warren (28) was resolute in defence, George and Anthony (36) are consistent performers and important players heading into the finals.
For Coburg, Thomas 25 disposals, Nathan Blair, Cody Mance and Daniel Venditti (26) were tireless in their efforts. North Ballarat can cement a finals spot with a win over Geelong at home in round 18 while Coburg are away to Sandringham.