Published on Monday, September 2, 2019
Author : Jack Powell nfnl.org.au
Eltham held off a determined Thomastown to advance through to the A Plus Labour Solutions Division 2 preliminary final, where it will meet Whittlesea.
The Panthers led by 36 points early in the third quarter of the first semi final, before the Bears came back to trail by just two points. However, the Panthers were able to weather the storm and take an 8.14 (62) to 6.8 (44) victory at Whittlesea Showgrounds.
Collingwood VFL-listed player Adam Oxley was Eltham’s best in the win. In his first finals appearance for the club, Oxley was dominant – providing excellent run and carry out of the backline and showcasing his superb kicking skills.
Marcus Cantwell was also one of the Panthers’. In wet conditions Cantwell’s cleanliness with the ball was very impressive. The highlight of his game being two crowd-erupting goals.
Matthew Keys played an outstanding game in the backline. Keys was regularly able to take intercept marks on his opponents and rebound the ball out of the defensive 50.
Despite the result, Dylan Chapman had a fantastic game for Thomastown. Chapman provided first use out of the ruck in the stoppages to the likes of Matt Vasilevski and Daniel Chadwick. Chapman also worked back tirelessly to intercept many of Eltham’s forward 50 entries.
Vasilevski and Chadwick finished off their remarkable seasons in style. The midfield duo won a substantial amount of the ball, with Vasilevski consistently winning centre clearances and showcasing his booming left foot, while Chadwick was a workhorse.
Eltham dominated possession in the first quarter but poor inside 50 entries that were missing targets or being intercepted prevented the Panthers from putting on more scoreboard pressure.
It took until the 20-minute mark when Sean Desmond kicked the opening goal of the match. It was followed by another goal before quarter time from Bronson Glasgow to help the Panthers take a 13-point lead into the first break.
The second quarter saw Eltham control possession once again, this time being unable to make the most of its chances in front of goal.
The story of the opening-half was co-coach and Eltham key forward Michael Still, who kicked 0.6. Despite Eltham’s accuracy problems they took a 23-point lead into the main break.
Eltham started the second half on fire with two quick goals, courtesy of Ben Smith and Still to open up a 36-point advantage.
The season was suddenly looking like it was beginning to slip away from Thomastown, before it was able to completely swing the momentum of the game in its favour and kick four consecutive goals to cut the deficit to 11 points at three quarter time.
As the game looked set for a thrilling fourth quarter, the weather started to turn ugly as the rain began to heavily pour down.
Anthony Capeci kicked the opening goal of the final term to put the Bears within just two points, erupting the Thomastown faithful, as a repeat of the 2018 A Plus Labour Solutions Grand Final looked on the cards for the Panthers.
However, Cantwell and Still were able to kick extraordinary snap goals and the Panthers were able to weather the storm and finish off with an 18-point win.
Eltham will now face Whittlesea in the preliminary final at Epping Recreation Reserve this Saturday at 2:10pm for a spot in the Grand Final against Banyule.
Final score: Eltham 8.14 (62) def Thomastown 6.8 (44)
Goal Kickers: M. Cantwell 2, M. Still 2, S. Desmond, B. Smith, D. Jarvis, B. Glasgow
Best Players: A. Oxley, M. Williamson, M. Cantwell, M. Keys, D. Jarvis, J. Merkel
Goal Kickers: A. Capeci 2, S. Mamone, S. Ball, M. Dirkx, D. Caruso
Best Players: D. Chapman, N. Klooster, J. Rizzolio, M. Vasilevski, D. Chadwick , J. Vaccaro