NORTH Warrnambool Eagles adjusted first and the result was a ticket to week two of the Hampden league finals series.
The Eagles’ 14.12 (96) to 7.8 (50) elimination final win against Camperdown on a sun-drenched Victoria Park yesterday set up a first semi-final showdown with Cobden.
The do-or-die final’s importance was evident in the first term.
Pressure from both camps was intense, causing turnovers, smothers and fumbles.
The two defensive units were on top as each team bombed the ball forward without purpose.
North Warrnambool Eagles rectified their forward forays after quarter-time and it proved the difference.
For Camperdown, it was the tale of its season, with poor decision-making inside 50 plaguing it again.
Eagles coach David Haynes, who finished with two goals, said he was thrilled with his side’s performance after quarter-time.
“We didn’t use the footy well in the first quarter with the wind,” he said.
“We didn’t use the shorter option much and missed a few opportunities but after quarter-time I thought we were able to run and spread and use the ball through the middle a bit better and were a bit more effective going forward.”
Eagles’ midfield duo Andy McMeel (34 touches) and Matthew Wines (25) were busy, while defender Brendan Murfett ensured Camperdown spearhead Dan Casey had to work hard for his four goals.
Robbie Gregg (five goals) and Jeremy Parkinson (two) were lively in attack for the Eagles.
Haynes had an opportunity to hit the scoreboard early in the game.
The key forward had two long-range shots which were just off line.
Casey broke through for the opening goal.
It came after the coach-in-waiting marked on the lead and converted from long range.
The Eagles’ kicks forward played into the Magpies’ hands.
Dean Gavin finally swooped with a snap goal before the Magpies squandered a golden opportunity.
Smooth-moving onballer Sam Chapman, who was prolific in the first term and creative throughout the match, found Luke Molan, who speared a pass to Aaron Sinnott in the goal square.
Sinnott played on and the ball was touched.
A Gregg goal gave the Eagles a seven-point lead at quarter-time.
Camperdown dominated the inside 50 entries early in the second term.
But it was Gregg who broke the stalemate and Haynes stretched the lead further.
North Warrnambool Eagles had the momentum but a 50-metre penalty against Haynes saw the ball rushed forward.
Casey received a free kick and pegged one back for the Pies.
The Eagles’ ball use and decision-making improved deep into the second term and they took a 21-point lead into the main break.
Scoring opened up in the third quarter. North booted six goals to Camperdown’s four.
Luke Mahony sparked the Magpies, kicking the first goal in the opening two minutes.
But, as was the case throughout the term, the Eagles hit back.
The Pies’ woes in attack were typified in one instance.
A Nick Bateman stumble from close range was costly.
The Eagles rebounded with zest and Parkinson converted.
The Pies were always kept at arm’s length, unable to string two goals together.
But it wasn’t through a lack of trying as their effort was obvious.
Fraser Lucas made a saving tackle on Parkinson late in the term, only to kick it out on the full 30 seconds later, handing Mark Murphy a shot at goal.
That summed up Camperdown’s afternoon.
Haynes implored the Eagles to play the game out at three-quarter-time and not be content with a 32-point lead.
They dominated the inside 50 count for 3.4 and restricted the Pies to 1.2.
The loss signalled the end of Camperdown coach Bernard Moloney’s three-year tenure.
Moloney, who has passed the reins on to Casey, said it was a bitter-sweet finish.
“I have loved every minute at Camperdown. They’ve been sensational and the group has really got behind me,” he said.
“But I feel like I failed a bit because it’s all about winning finals and we haven’t won one since I have been here.”