Geelong 27 Eltham 9
While a last-round drubbing of Ballarat may not have been the best tune-up for the Championship major semi-final, Eltham headed to Geelong with high hopes of reversing the results of the two regular season matches against the minor premiers. Unfortunately, this was not to be, with Geelong coming away with a 27-9 victory, in the process securing a Grand Final berth. It was a match where Eltham’s inability to maintain possession cost them scoring opportunities, underlined by the fact that this was the first match this season in which Eltham has failed to score a try. Credit to Geelong- they hustled very effectively across the defensive line, contributing to Eltham’s errors. In addition, Eltham was unable to take advantage of playing against 14 opponents for an extended period of time, courtesy of two yellow cards handed out to the hosts. Geelong scored early, extending the Eltham defence with a willingness to push the ball wide, to go 7-0 up. Some old-fashioned “forcey backs” (look that one up!), a high hit on Lucas Herron, and several penalties later Eliah James was able to close the gap to 7-3. Geelong’s next try really captured the story of the game: after some sustained pressure from Eltham, a loose ball following an Eltham lineout was scooped up on the 50 metre line, resulting in a runaway Geelong try to give the hosts a 14-3 lead. Despite a Geelong yellow card for foul play, poor ball control was costing Eltham dearly. When Eltham did get the ball wide, they looked dangerous, with Howie Simpson in particular making good inroads. A series of penalties gave Eliah the chance to bring the score to 14-6 at half-time.
Another high-shot and a penalty goal early in the second half had Eltham close to 14-9 after Rory Featherstone managed a steal at the kick-off to give Eltham possession. Clearly, one of the Geelong players took offence at this, delivering a rib-crunching but somewhat late hit on Rory. Josh Guy, having a huge game, came up with a magnificent torpedo kick to have Eltham on the attack but a subsequent penalty attempt was unsuccessful. A 50/22m effort by Eliah was not awarded, with Geelong exploiting this opportunity with a length-of-the-field try to extend their lead to 19-9, with a subsequent penalty taking it to 22-9. Joey Griffin was having one of his best games of the season, especially in defence, while Will Johnson and Riley Strachan delivered some venomouscleanouts. A second yellow card to Geelong for a dangerous tackle had the hosts down to 14 players for the final phase of the much but Eltham were unable to turn this to their advantage. Indeed, a charge-down of an Eltham kick was turned into a 50 metre runaway try by Geelong to settle the final score at 27-9.
A preliminary final against Maroondah is Eltham’s next challenge. While we have beaten this side twice, both were close games against an opponent that cannot be underestimated. On a positive note, we had probably the biggest senior turnout at training on Thursday night. Whether this was because it was a) team photos and there was a FOMO, b) Roger’s magnificent pasta feast (thanks, Rog), or perhaps c) the opportunity to watch miscreants Riley and Jayden do the “rat wash” for past indiscretions?