By: Jarryd Barca nfl.org.au
ELTHAM kept its Meadows Greyhounds Division 1 finals aspiration alive with an emphatic 41-point win over Montmorency in Round 12.
A dominant five-goal to one first quarter sparked the Panthers to a 12.12 (84) to 6.7 (43) victory at Montmorency Park, ending the Magpies’ four-game unbeaten run.
Early signs were ominous for the home side who struggled to keep up with the Panthers’ elite ball movement. However, an increase in tackling pressure saw them fight back strongly in the second term, reducing the half-time deficit to 13 points.
From then on it was all about Eltham, whose ability to run and spread proved too classy in the end, keeping Montmorency to just one goal after the main break.
The Magpies’ inability to cover for Vic Metro representatives Jesse Donaldson and Ben Fennell has them now holding onto fifth spot ahead of West Preston-Lakeside and Eltham on percentage alone.
Leading from the front for the visitors was veteran Lachie Richardson who had the ball on a string from half-back, hitting up targets and creating attack for the entirety of the match.
Gavan Connolly and Anton Woods were dangerous all day for the Panthers, while teammates Billy Glasgow, Tom Rogers and James El Moussalli dominated the midfield battle.
Luke Collins and Daniel Keenan were among the best for the home side and played a lone hand in the midfield without Donaldson and Fennell, while key defender Michael Fitz-Gerald held his own in defence.
Josh Merkel and El Moussalli opened up the game with goals from long distance on the counter-attack, after the first half of the quarter was full of congestion.
The Magpies struggled with their efficiency entering the forward line, but a free kick to Ben Walton steadied up the game.
It was only momentarily however, as Merkel and El Moussalli were both able to add to their impressive first terms with another major each, giving Eltham a 21-point lead at quarter-time.
Anton Woods got the second quarter started with a quick snap goal deep in the forward line to extend the margin to 27 points.
Just as the game was looking like a blowout, a complete change in pressure and a noticeable lift in the contested area saw the Magpies surging the ball forward with clear intent, piling on the next four goals.
The change of authority in the midfield brought some life back into the game, but a late goal for the visitors stretched the margin to 13 points heading into the main break.
With each side desperate for the win, throwing everything at the contest was the norm of the third term in what was a tight and contested quarter of footy.
Neither team was able to gain existent ascendancy for the majority of the quarter, until Adam Brovedani broke the deadlock with a calm set shot.
The only three goals of the quarter came within a dominant five minutes of play for the Panthers, with Connelly and Rogers the other two goal kickers.
A dour fourth quarter mirrored that of the third, with the first goal again coming late in the way of the visitors.
Ned Taylor was able to boot the Magpies’ first goal since the second quarter, but the damage had already been done, with the Panthers doing what was required to keep within reach of a second successive finals appearance.
Montmorency will look to re-establish some form as it travels to De Winton Park next week to take on third-placed reigning premier Macleod. Eltham also faces a tough assignment when it travels to Yulong Reserve to battle fourth-placed Bundoora.
Final score: Montmorency 6.7 (43) def by Eltham 12.12 (84)