MERRIVALE will chase premiership glory with renewed hope its run-and-spread game will stack up in finals after accounting for Old Collegians.
The Tigers delivered the prefinals performance coach Karl Dwyer was looking for by cruising to a 20.7 (127) to 7.12 (54) win at Merrivale Recreation Reserve.
Jet Dowie and Brad Kelly kicked four goals each, while best-afield Alister Porter nailed three, including a contender for goal of the season.
The win ensured the Tigers finished in second spot on the Warrnambool and District league ladder. They will meet Dennington in a qualifying final on Saturday.
“We haven’t limped in, I think we deserve a top-three spot,” Dwyer said.
“We said we needed to win two of those last three games. That’s what we wanted, or at least that. Obviously you want to win them all.
“We had a good win against Panmure, last week (against Dennington) was a let down and today we bounced back.”
Merrivale has teased its fans in big matches for much of the season but needed less than a minute to stamp its authority against Old Collegians.
Porter goaled within 15 seconds of the first bounce, while Kelly kicked the only other two majors of the first quarter, one early and one late.
James Fary got in on the act after the restart with two more, before James Kelly and Dowie made the score 7.4 to 0.5 approaching time on.
The margin threatened to blow out at that stage but Old Collegians, as they did in the first term, fought back.
Colby Rix opened their account with a running goal from 30 metres, while Jack Dunkley fed Josh Walsh for their second, the margin 34 points at half-time.
The Warriors carried that run into the third quarter — the only period of the match they threatened an upset.
But converting the guilt-edged chances they created proved their downfall — as has been the case for much of the season.
They had 16 inside 50s during the term but managed just 4.5. By contrast, Merrivale had just seven yet added 4.0.
For two sides with hopes of going deep in finals, the statistic was telling. The Warriors laboured for their goals, the Tigers kicked them easily.
At one stage Dunkley cut the margin to 15 points with a clever intercept and snap. But Dowie and Brad Kelly cut short the surge with goals of their own.
Chris Chambers fired the next salvo with a goal on the run. The Tigers again replied with two more, with Josh Guiney at the heart of both.
The floodgates opened within minutes of the final quarter starting, as a previously-entertaining match became a mauling.
An 8.2 to 1.0 burst was the Tigers at their most damaging and showed what they are capable of on big grounds.
As well as Porter and the key forwards, Todd McLean was super in defence and Manny Sandow worked hard in the ruck.
But there was enough fight in the first three quarters to give the Warriors hope as they eye an elimination final clash with Allansford on Sunday.
Paul Campbell was their best from defence, while Eli Barker was the pick of the onballers.
“It’s disappointing. You look at the scoreboard and it says we’ve got done by a dozen goals,” coach Daryl Beechey said.
“But a last-quarter fade out when it’s done and dusted doesn’t do us justice either. There are positives and negatives to come out of it.
“It’s hard when you get done by that much to look at the positives but we’ll bounce back.”