Dogs win hard slog | Photos

THE last time Dennington defeated Panmure it secured a grand final berth.

That occasion was the 2010 second semi-final which the Dogs won by 67 points.

This time it will be the 2014 preliminary final with a grand final match up against Merrivale the prize from what promises to be an epic dog fight.

Dennington earned its preliminary final place against the Bulldogs with a convincing 8.8 (56) to 4.2 (26) win over Old Collegians in the first semi- final, played in wintry  weather at Merrivale yesterday.

In a game where football niceties went out the door, the Dogs dug deep to prevail in a tough and hard-fought encounter.

Both teams attacked the first quarter the way you would expect in a cut-throat final with bodies on the line at each contest.

Aaron Williams was providing a strong target at centre half-forward for the Warriors and he capped off this good work with his team’s two goals for the quarter.

Goals to Dennington’s Ryan McElgunn and Jacob Morris meant scores were level when the quarter-time siren sounded.

The game continued to be a tense battle at the start of the second quarter and it took until the seven-minute mark and a snap from Dogs full-forward Chris Keilar to register the first goal.

Onballer Brandon Edwards kicked truly from a set shot five minutes later to extend the Dogs’ lead before Eli Barker pulled the margin back for the Warriors with a mark and goal.

In a game that was always going to be a low-scoring one, consecutive goals were going to be worth their weight in gold. With a six-point lead already in its favour, Dennington forward Alex Pye landed a telling double blow in the shadows of half-time.

Pye marked 40 metres out and finished the job with a goal, then repeated the dose, this time a little closer to goal, to have his team up by 18 points at the long break.

Outside of the Warriors’ inner sanctum, few in attendance would have doubted the three-goal lead had the game as good as over, with the conditions becoming more slippery and hard to handle as each minute ticked by.

This was evident in the third quarter when neither side managed a goal. The only scores for the term being five behinds to the Dogs, taking their lead to 23 points at the final change.

When the Warriors’ Colby Rix kicked the first goal of the last quarter, hopes of a miracle kept his team’s supporters interested.

But goals to Dogs key forwards Andrew Nikluas and Keilar soon after put paid to that fantasy as Dennington cruised to victory.

The top three teams are now left to fight it out and the Dogs’ form make it very much a three-way battle.

While they were comprehensively beaten a fortnight ago by Merrivale, at their best the Dogs have shown they are as capable as any team in it.

Their win yesterday may not have been pretty but it was hard and gritty. It was just the type of game they thrive on and one that will have lifted their confidence back to a healthy level.

Old Collegians walked away as the losers yesterday but they can be comfortable in the knowledge they have just completed one of the great comeback seasons the league has seen.

From not winning a game during the 2013 season to making it into the second week of the finals 12 months later is a performance that will take a deserved place in the club’s long and proud history.

abrady@fairfaxmedia.com.au

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