By: Connor O’Leary
Sunday, August 30, 2015

MACLEOD proved too strong for Eltham in the Division 1 qualifying final, accounting for the Panthers by 25 points in miserable conditions at Preston City Oval.

Having not previously defeated Eltham this season, the Roos appeared to have their hands full with the competition’s fourth-best offensive team after Eltham kicked four successive majors to take the lead at quarter time.

However, Macleod was thereafter able to hold the Panthers to just a solitary goal after quarter time in a commanding defensive display to eek out a 10.8 (68) to 5.13 (43) win.

The result is a 74-point turn-around from last week when the sides met at De Winton Park – with Eltham a shadow of the team that shredded the Roos with a third quarter burst.

Macleod’s pressure and willingness to move the ball forward was noticeably greater than their effort the previous week, with Cathal Corr and Lucas Hobbs combining for five goals and providing the Roos with great penetration going forward.

Ruckman Chris Long also enjoyed a day out, excelling in the slippery conditions whilst also floating back in defence to help out Steven Kelly.

With leading goal kicker James Kroussoratis still sidelined and Matt Williamson contained by Kelly, Eltham’s forward unit struggled for continuity – with the Panthers too often bombing long to contests, allowing Macleod to easily clear defensive 50.

Midfielders Bradyn Taglieri and Billy Glasgow battled all day for Eltham in the clinches and finished with a goal apiece, whilst Sean Brazzale’s run was important on a disappointing day for the Panthers.

Macleod’s ability to run and use the ball through the corridor – which has been somewhat missing in recent weeks – was prominent early as the Roos raced to a three-goal lead at the 11-minute mark of the opening term.

With Eltham beginning to wrestle back some ascendancy in the stoppages, a four-goal burst led by Josh Merkel ensured the Panthers held a seven-point buffer at quarter time.

Merkel proved a key link across half forward in the first term for Eltham, creating two goals whilst also slotting a major from the boundary on his wrong side.

The Roos began to create more chances in the second term, however their effort yielded just two goals either side of an Anton Woods set shot to enter half time with a two-point lead.

Slippery conditions created constant stoppages after half time and with Eltham failing to capitilise on its chances, the Roos’ defence held firm before goals to Corr and Brandt extended Macleod’s lead to ten points at the last change.

Smelling blood, the Roos’ tackling pressured Eltham into multiple mistakes and when Patrick Martin converted a simple set shot after being held in a foot race with Williamson and Darcy Vallance, the game was in Macleod’s keeping.

While Eltham continued to spray opportunities, further goals to Corr and Matthew Yarwood sealed the Roos’ win and a semi-final berth with table-toppers Greensborough this week.

The Panthers will meet Northcote Park on Sunday in a cutthroat final at Preston City Oval, with the winner to advance through to the preliminary final.

Macleod 3.1-19 5.5-35 7.6-48 10.8-68
Eltham 4.3-27 5.3-33 5.8-38 5.13-43
Goal Kickers: A. Woods, B. Glasgow, J. Merkel, B. Taglieri, M. Williamson
Best Players: L. Richardson, S. Brazzale, B. Taglieri, B. Glasgow, D. Coffield, J. Lorey


The Panthers held a  narrow advantage throughout and were just able to withstand a late surge by Heildelberg in the last quarter to secure a three point win and advance to the Second Semi Final against Greensborough this coming Saturday at Preston.
Eltham 2.2-14 3.5-23 6.9-45 7.9-51
Heidelberg 0.4-4 2.4-16 5.6-36 7.6-48
Goal Kickers: T. Snell 2, S. Smith 2, R. Romeril, J. Lorey, M. Jessop
Best Players: R. Romeril, L. Kelso, B. O”Sullivan, L. Findlay, K. O”Sullivan, K. Keane