Finals footy does not get any better than warm sun, no wind and a huge crowd.
Vermont took on Montrose at Bayswater Oval on Saturday in the Division One qualifying final, and came away victorious, 16.7.103 to 13.9.87. It was a dominant second and third quarter display that allowed the Eagles to seal the game by three quarter time, despite an extremely spirited effort from Montrose late in the fourth quarter.
With a semi-final berth against Norwood up for grabs, both sides could barely be separated in the first quarter. A host of stoppages and boundary throw-ins peppered the early intensity, which from both teams was tight. Vermont stalwart Bernie Dinneen broke the shackles for the Eagles after receiving a free kick, and vice captain Lachlan Johns followed soon after.
However, the impact on the scoreboard was minimal, as Montrose Captain/Coach Brett Johnson slotted one through. The host of turnovers from both sides kept the defensive line alert, while Montrose held Justin Van Unen extremely well. At 2.2.14 apiece at quarter time, it was game on.
Some rushed play from Montrose allowed Nathan Henley to pounce and score a double early in the second term. Six goals to three broke the game open to a then-high 19 point margin, the first signs the Eagles were about to show just why they finished second during the home and away season.
Ashley Froud and the reliable Simon Taylor showed their stripes for the Eagles, but the likes of Matthew Petracca and Billy Schilling were not to be outdone for Montrose. Petracca created some beautiful opportunities around the Montrose attacking 50, but Vermont’s back six sent it back the other way.
Six goals to two in the third quarter all but sealed the deal for Vermont. Van Unen finally found space to kick four for the match, ably supported by Johns (3, with two beautiful long bombs), Fround and Henley. The Montrose fans became extremely vocal when their calls for holding the ball fell on deaf ears.
Vermont’s voice was found in the fourth term, as Montrose free kicks allowed them to peg the margin back. But a goal to Van Unen and then Kris Bardon a few minutes out from the siren was enough to hold on.
The momentum carried from last week’s crushing win against Balwyn seemed to get Vermont over the line, but Montrose never went away. Six goals in the final quarter had them beginning to hope. Schilling and Petracca chipped in as well as David Bell. Montrose can take plenty of positives from the game, most importantly the gallant effort and drive through the middle.
Vermont coach Steve Cochrane said post-match that having lost to Montrose during the home and away season, they had to prove they were up for the challenge, and they were ultimately successful.
It was, however, a nails-in-mouth situation at the end as Montrose made a move.
“We had to make sure we finished off the game…in the end, Montrose probably finished up a bit better than us. A few umpiring decisions went their way, but we were well and truly in control of the game.”
Cochrane highlighted the forward effort, but did admit that the defensive structure was wobbly early.
“Our forward line worked quite well together, and our clearances were fantastic. Our backs struggled early but they bounced back well.”
With Saturday’s conditions proving much warmer and more still than previous weeks, players were out on their feet earlier than usual, but determination saw Vermont through to a semi-final next week with Norwood. Whoever wins that goes straight through to the grand final.
Montrose will face the winner of the semi-final between Blackburn and Balwyn, which will be played on Sunday at Jubilee Park in Ringwood.