A commanding five-goal haul from Ben King has sent the Sandringham Dragons into a preliminary final after overcoming the Murray Bushrangers 13.16 (94) to 7.9 (51) in an elimination final at Ikon Park.
Murray, who finished fifth on the TAC Cup ladder and qualified for the finals through last week’s wildcard round got the jump on fourth-placed Sandringham to lead two goals to one at quarter time.
That’s where the joy ended for the Bushrangers as the Dragons piled on four consecutive goals in the second term to take control of the contest in dominant fashion, supplying their forwards with repeat entries to place Murray’s defence under immense heat.
Two quick majors to open the second half brought Murray back within seven points before King’s fourth goal – via a strong contested mark on the goal-line – wrestled momentum back for Sandringham.
A thumping long-range strike from James Rendell followed by classy finishes from Liam Stocker and Angus Hanrahan then put the game to bed as the Dragons ran out 43-point winners to book in a date with Dandenong next Saturday.
“We had a plan coming into the game and for the majority (of the game) we were able to execute it,” Sandringham coach Jeremy Barnard said.
“I thought it was a great effort, it’s been a long time since we’ve had that many scores and given our forwards that many entries.
“Our team defence was probably our best it has been for the whole year.”
King’s five-goal performance could easily have been an even greater bag with multiple opportunities in front of goal gone begging in what was a match-winning contribution through sheer aerial dominance, earning him best afield honours.
Bottom-age talent Jack Mahony (25 disposals, four tackles & a goal) was given the coaches award following an impressive outing, winning the ball in the middle of the ground and crumbing a neat snap in the second quarter.
“We’re really happy to have Jack back in the side, he gives us an added dimension both in the midfield and as a forward,” Barnard said.
Ryan Byrnes continued his strong form through midfield and was named in the best alongside Jack Denborough, Liam Stocker and Josh Worrell.
Sandringham is confident their preparation will hold them in good stead to have a real crack at the ladder-leading Dandenong in the preliminary final, despite the fact the Stingrays have lost just one game this year.
“We didn’t start preparing for finals last week, we started preparing for finals the first training session of pre-season and that’s why the Dragons are hard to play against,” Barnard said.
The Dandenong vs Sandringham preliminary final will be at Ikon Park on Saturday at 11.30am.