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LEONGATHA was too good for Sale during their final round Gippsland League football clash.
The Magpies were heavily depleted, with unforeseen circumstances meaning forced changes had to be made to the selected side, lost at Leongatha 14.15 (99) to 6.4 (40).
Because of a plethora of injuries to senior players, some thirds players were made to back up from a morning game into senior football. This forced different changes and roles for players, which no doubt affected the side’s capability on the day.
In a high-standard clash, the ball was moving with ease for both teams, and the conditions were conducive to fast, open football.
Jarrod Freeman was making use of the space up forward and kicked the Magpies’ first two goals.
Leongatha also had a forward who was relishing the ideal conditions.
League-leading goal kicker Chris Dunne kicked all of the Parrots’ three goals as they took a one-goal lead into the first break.
The Magpies also began the second quarter well. Withstanding the Leongatha pressure, they were able to gain good forward entries but couldn’t hurt the Parrots on the scoreboard.
A missed shot resulted in Leongatha breaking the shackles and kicking two goals in a row.
A smart goal by Brad McKay from a loose ball, courtesy of a strong tackle, began to reel the margin in, and Freeman took a nice mark from a Kane Martin pass to kick another major.
The problem was Leongatha was responding, the Parrots’ running from half-back in numbers, the front-on pressure and numbers behind the ball meant every Sale error was pounced on.
Brad Dessent kicked another goal, but the margin had grown to 26 points by half-time.
Sale found it tough in the second half, as Leongatha controlled the play, while little fumbles showed the Magpies were just not at their peak.
Forward Jack Allman provided a spark for Sale, his goal gave the visitors some hope, unfortunately was the Magpies’ only goal for the quarter.
The Parrots only kept the margin from getting out further through their own inaccurate kicking — seven behinds keeping the margin respectable. At three-quarter-time, Sale trailed by 39 points.
The Magpies tried defiantly in the final quarter, Martin working hard in tight, but it seemed every forward entry or good passage of play Sale had resulted in one handball too many or a fumble. This allowed the Parrots to apply their pressure and force stoppages or gain control of the football.
Sale didn’t kick a goal for the quarter, while the Parrots booted three as the home side won by 59 points.
For the away team, there weren’t too many players who played their best games for season 2018, it was just one of those days.
Jordan Dessent’s marking and competitiveness around the ground was good. McKay tried to give the Magpies plenty of run and carry though the midfield, and Zac Hurley was Sale’s best defender, his high marking and ability to jump at the contest noticeable.
Andrew Quirk had an intriguing battle with Leongatha forwards Lloyd and Lockwood, his defensive work solid as always.
The returning Jack Mapleson showed off his skills in patches, while Martin battled hard throughout the day.
The five under 18 players — Jack Allman, Luke Williams, Zac Hurley, Max Reeves and Jack Mclaren — all showed glimpses of why they can be important players for Sale now and in the future.
The Magpies will play the Parrots in the qualifying final, with the winner to progress against Maffra.
Saturday’s result wasn’t an influencing factor on the season ladder, Sale would have welcomed the opportunity to have a good look at Leongatha, the hopeful additions of some midfield experience and a different shape to the back line should hold the Magpies in good stead at the smaller Warragul ground next Saturday.
Gippsland League finals — week one
Qualifying final, Saturday at Western Park, Warragul:
Seniors: Leongatha v Sale, 2.20pm.
Reserves: Moe v Traralgon, 12.30pm.
Under 18s: Moe v Bairnsdale, 10.30am.
Under 16s: Wonthaggi v Sale, 9am.
Elimination final, Sunday at Morwell Recreation Reserve:
Seniors: Moe v Traralgon, 2.20pm.
Reserves: Traralgon v Leongatha, 12.30pm.
Under 18s: Bairnsdale v Sale, 10.30am.
Under 16s: Morwell v Moe, 9am.