No margin had been a safe zone in Tallygaroopna’s second semi-final against Stanhope, until Nick Fichera sailed through a set shot in the fourth quarter to put the Redlegs 16 points ahead.
Then the Redlegs fans that travelled to Murchison Recreation Reserve recognised the margin was the biggest of the game and locked in a date with the Kyabram District Football League grand final.
On a glorious September day, both sides couldn’t move away from their opponent no matter which way the momentum was swinging.
Tallygaroopna coach Kevin O’Donoghue said there was never any chance for those on the bench to take a breath.
‘‘That’s how it’s been all year with them. They’re experienced and have a very even spread of players, so you can’t rest because we got out to a little bit of a lead and they kept coming back, but they’re very good at that,’’ O’Donoghue said.
‘‘But our job still isn’t done yet and we understand that. They really took it up to us.’’
Fichera’s sealer was one of three for him for the match, while Dylan Sidebottom found ways to exert his class and ended with four goals.
From early on it was evident the game was not going to be one-sided and the pair battled for 10 minutes before the first score, with Tallygaroopna losing gun midfielder Tyson Sidebottom early to a calf injury.
But the Redlegs carried on and Mitch Sidebottom added another six points before seconds later a quick clearance had the ball in Rohan Baldock’s hands and he converted.
While finals pressure was around, the silky skills of the league’s front runners continued to be on show as both sides used the wings and flirted with the boundary line, but always kept the ball in play.
A Daniel Brock goal that came in the same fashion to Fichera’s later in the game kept Tallygaroopna’s lead to three points at the first change.
This sparked the Lions in the second term and they threatened to turn the tables as Baldock slammed through a goal on the line after a sensational transition along the boundary to pull the game 10 points in Stanhope’s favour.
But like the rest of the game, it could never get away and despite the patch of dominance Tallygaroopna was five points up at half-time.
‘‘I’m just really pleased with the way we responded in the second half. Stanhope had the better of us a little bit and their forwards were looking very dangerous,’’ O’Donoghue said.
‘‘I’m very pleased with how our backline really stood up in the second half and they were challenged in the first half.’’
Cobey Aynsley was a casualty for Stanhope in the third quarter and exited on a stretcher with a knee injury.
In the same period, Tallygaroopna increased the buffer to 10 points with some solid defence, but the Lions continued to lurk with Lucas White important across the ground.
Marrick Tucker reserved his best game of the year to help Tallygaroopna into the grand final, while the Lions will aim to use their second chance to renew acquaintances in two weeks.