Bulldogs’ premiership defence alive . . . just

SALE City kept its North Gippsland football premiership defence alive, defeating Cowwarr the first semi-final in the dying stages by one point.

Kicking an impressive six goals to three in the second term, the Bulldogs for the first time in the contest at half-time. Led by coach Nick Hider and Joel Brayshaw, the Bulldogs rallied after what was a slow start.

The Saints marched out of the blocks, Matt Cameron opened proceedings following a strong mark in front of Mitch Bennett. It was followed by Chris Stasinowsky’s first goal for the afternoon as the Bulldogs struggled to clear the ball past the centre square.

Sale City’s first goals didn’t come until 12 minutes into the contest.

The Bulldogs’ defence of Beau Wilson, Tim DiMarco, Michael Walsh and Tom Horan worked hard to contain the Saints’ many avenues in front of goal, but felt the pressure as David Ivey booted his first of his four.

Forcing the turnovers in the middle of the ground, Stasinowsky had another major before City goaled through Trent McMillan on the quarter-time siren.

The sides went goal-for-goal in the opening stages of the second quarter, City’s Adam Walker booting the first as Hider made the strategic move to play on the ball. Tom Wilson made it two in a row as Hider drilled the ball into the leading Wilson.

The Bulldogs lifted their intensity and drive as Bennett kicked a goal before play was halted as Sale City’s Byron Shingles was carried from the ground.

Ivey scored his second goal following a 50 metre penalty against Ben Chivers at the 24-minute mark of the term. It was quickly answered as City drew within two points before a goal after the half-time siren to Brayshaw handed the Bulldogs a four-point lead.

With the game in the balance, the third term was a fierce contest with its taking 12 minutes for Cowwarr’s Cameron to open the scoring. City’s McMillan responded with his second major as the Saints’ defenders gave away a number of free kicks.

Ivey marked from the centre clearance to goal before Adam Walker got the response to put the Bulldogs back in front. The lead quickly grew as Rowan Bell added another after undisciplined play by the Saints’ defence.

Steve Cooper looked to stem the tide with the final goal for the term.

The Saints were missing a number of shots at goal early in the final term, with Stasinowsky not looking confident as he looked to pass off before settling on a shot at goal. His major reeled the margin back to three points before Ivey handed the Saints back the lead.

A free given away by Cowwarr ruckman Paul Joyce saw Nick Grainger miss, but then City’s coach goaled to hand his side back the lead, but it was followed by equal theatrics at the other end as Stasinowsky took a strong mark, but failed to finish off, booting his fifth behind for the contest.

A captain’s goal by Luke Cooper handed the Saints back the lead, before in the dying minutes City drilled forward.

Working hard to drive the ball from defence, Cowwarr was caught holding the ball. Damien Ashcroft quickly playing onto snap at goal and give the Bulldogs a one-point victory, 14.14 (98) to 14.13 (97).

CHURCHILL knocked-out Rosedale from the reserves finals after a 16-point victory.

The Cougars also won the under thirds first semi-final, ending Woodside’s season.