Bulldogs fight back for chance at three-in-a-row

Panmure’s Daniel Roache kicks over a leaping Luke Moutray of Dennington during Saturday’s preliminary final at Reid Oval.  140830LP04 Pictures: LEANNE PICKETT

Panmure’s Daniel Roache kicks over a leaping Luke Moutray of Dennington during Saturday’s preliminary final at Reid Oval. 140830LP04 Pictures: LEANNE PICKETT

PANMURE is one win away from becoming only the second side in 50 years to claim three consecutive Warrnambool and District league premierships.

The Bulldogs set up a grand final showdown with Merrivale after running away from Dennington to win an entertaining preliminary final at Reid Oval on Saturday.

They trailed by 14 points at quarter-time but kicked 12 goals to three thereafter en route to the 15.15 (105) to 9.6 (60) victory.

Kolora-Noorat won three premierships between 2009 and 2011 under Ben Kenna, who called time on his six-season tenure earlier this month.

West End, which won eight consecutive flags from 1948 to 1955, is the only other side to achieve a three-peat in league history.

Replicating those feats is a realistic proposition for Panmure if its preliminary final dismantling of Dennington is anything to go by.

The Bulldogs were a transformed side to the one which barely fired a shot in the second semi-final.

Their work rate and accountability were up, their skills were precise and they had more options up forward, courtesy of James Keane returning in the ruck.

And just as importantly, they had to fight from behind. The preliminary final offered Simon O’Keefe’s men the exact test they were after.

“It’s a good point, that. You talk about footy, at times you’re going to be in front and at times you’re going to be behind,” O’Keefe said.

“Good sides can come from behind. We were three or four goals down at one stage. To come back from that was really good.”

The early deficit came courtesy of a fast-starting Dennington, which got its match-ups right early and had the ascendency in the middle of the ground.

Alex Pye kicked three of the first four goals while senior figures Darcy Lewis, Chris Keilar, Luke Duncan and Brandon Edwards were influential.

That Panmure remained in touch was due to O’Keefe, who booted its only two goals of the first term as the Dogs led 5.0 to 2.4 at the break.

Momentum started to shift during a second-term arm-wrestle but Panmure would not reap the rewards until after half-time.

The Bulldogs added 8.3 to 1.1 in the third quarter, including 6.2 to 0.1 during a devastating 14 minutes.

The rout started when Daniel Roache marked an Alex White pass and slotted a set shot on a tight angle.

Sam Mahony converted on the run minutes later before Brady Purcell kicked goal of the day from 30 metres out on the boundary.

O’Keefe kicked his third from a set shot and it was game over when Purcell goaled moments later after a chain of handballs.

Two moments late in the third term summed up the Dogs’ day. Lewis won a free kick within range but kicked out of bounds on the full. Tim McPherson then dashed out of defence, only to cop late contact from Keilar. Roache slotted the down-field free kick, the score 12.11 to 7.3. 

There were contributors everywhere, not the least ruckman Keane and onballer Alex White, whose work in the centre sparked the run of goals.

Down back, Ben Meade was beaten early but fought back well against Lewis while McPherson shaded Keilar.

The other game-changing move was Tom Wright shifting on to Pye and keeping the electric forward to just two goals after quarter-time.

For Dennington, John Vincent won its best-player honours. Vincent found plenty of football and showed a willingness to compete on a forward flank. Pye finished with five of its nine goals and was the pick of the forwards while Lewis’ work rate was high.

Luke Duncan kept Tom White goalless to claim another key forward scalp and Ryan McElgunn tagged Shamus O’Beirne effectively.

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