COMPREHENSIVE, destructive, explosive, damaging, clinical.
Choose whatever adjective you will. All are fitting descriptions of Merrivale’s mauling of Dennington in the Warrnambool and District league qualifying final.
The Tigers produced their most complete performance of the season in belting the Dogs 15.10 (100) to 6.8 (44) at Allansford Recreation Reserve on Saturday.
The win, their first finals triumph since the 2011 qualifying final, set up a tantalising second semi-final against Panmure at Noorat Recreation Reserve.
And they could even start the clash as favourites, such was the ease with which they dismantled the Dogs. Minor premier Panmure is on notice.
“We were coming off five losses with our finals. It was good to get the monkey off the back a little bit,” Merrivale coach Karl Dwyer said.
Most pleasing for Dwyer was the way Merrivale responded to different challenges at various stages throughout the match.
They had to start well. They had to withstand an enormous amount of pressure in the second term. And they had to score heavily when in control after half-time.
Every test finished with a resounding tick. Merrivale had winners all over the ground, Dennington had maybe half a dozen.
Among the key Tigers was mid-sized forward Brad Kelly, the most influential figure when the contest was in the balance.
Kelly kicked three goals in the first term as the Tigers raced to a 4.3 to 1.4 advantage. But his fourth, moments before half-time, underlined his true value.
Dennington had fought back with three consecutive majors to open the second term and led by a point at the 21-minute mark.
The excellent Luke Pearson kicked truly on the run before Jordan Greene navigated traffic to set up Dustin McCorkell soon after.
Chris Keilar then converted a set shot after a soft 50-metre penalty. The Dogs had all the momentum.
But Kelly snatched back the lead by outsprinting Jacob Morris, collecting a Joe Woonton pass and drilling home, the score 5.4 to 4.6 at the long break.
Merrivale then put the contest to bed with a second-half blitz few saw coming. In almost an hour of football the Tigers added an astonishing 11.4 to 0.3.
They were near-untouchable. Their spread from the contest was sublime, their back six resolute, their forwards marking what came their way.
They were also winning key battles all over the ground.
Ruckman Manny Sandow was close to best afield against Josh Lock while Alister Porter was the pick of the onballers and kicked a classy goal.
Down back, Todd McLean had Keilar covered while Jack Grace broke even with Darcy Lewis.
Dennington was pleased with Lewis’ work rate, and rightly so. The former coach led hard and made a contest of everything that came his way.
But Grace likewise deserved much credit, perhaps more. He conceded size and weight yet would have had about a dozen spoils.
The only Dog who could claim to have won their position was Luke Duncan, who had an enthralling battle with Woonton.
Pearson, Greene and Peter Doukas were also four-quarter contributors. But exacerbating the defeat was a hamstring injury to Jono Nevill.
Dennington did kick the last two goals of the game when Lewis and Keilar got on the end of pinpoint passes. But they only served to lessen the humiliation.
“It was an ordinary effort. I thought we played one quarter really, the second quarter. That was about it,” Dogs coach Ben Parkinson said.
“To kick two goals after half-time was pretty embarrassing really and those were