Nyora has booked itself a berth in the Ellinbank District Football League grand final for the first time in 11 years defeating Longwarry in the second semi final in wintery conditions at Darnum on Saturday. Shooting for their first grand final appearance since their triumph in 2007, the Saints powered home after trailing narrowly at the final change to win 9-4 (58) to 6-7 (43).
It was Riley Rundell who got the Crows up and running early with a teammate setting up his checkside on the run from the pocket with a strong mark. The Crows scored a long goal to race out to a two-goal lead and the Saints, who were aiming to snap a run of consecutive losses, were looking shaky. Having been the team to beat for much of the season, the Saints were able to work their way back into the contest late in the quarter. A long goal to Ilan Osman was soon followed by a major from Aiden Cumberland, who had been rewarded for his pressure with a free kick. Schultz goaled on the run following a Saints centre clearance in the perfect start to the second term. Brody Rundell sent the ball forward in hopes of an immediate reply, but the pass fell short of the leading Daniel Fry. Schultz won a free kick in the marking contest to set up a mini-break for the Saints. Crows shots on goal missed before Leigh McDonald went long with Russell Lehman taking full advantage after being awarded the free kick for being taken out of the contest. A long goal continued the momentum for the Crows who took the lead. They went forward again through a run down tackle from Harley Jones but the Saints were able to concede. Brody Rundell took the ball forward again but his kick was affected by a tackle, allowing Kallon Rigby to take a saving mark for the Saints. Schultz found himself on the end of a mark from a downfield free kick and kicked a long goal against the run of play, allowing the Saints a narrow one-point lead at the long break despite the Crows doing most of the attacking.
The Saints started the third term well, with Schultz taking from position to mark and lean back on the kick beautifully to guide home another major from long range. The match was beginning to become a real arm wrestle in deteriorating conditions but not to be deterred, the Crows worked the ball forward to find Russell Lehman in space for a goal to put the Crows in front at the final change.
Trailing by three points at the final change, the Saints were quick to score to take the lead and they wouldn’t relinquish it from that point. Ben Schultz continued his impact up forward, scoring consecutive long goals to open a buffer for the Saints. Schultz finished with five goals and some work will need to go into quelling his influence in the grand final. The Crows showed desperation as they attacked in attempts to get back into the contest, but they were to be denied as they could manage just two behinds. Nick Fairbank pulled in a spectacular one-handed mark, while Ryan Spooner was also instrumental in stopping a Crows attack. A long shot from the Crows missed and a rolling shot from the boundary was also denied by the Saints with a defender able to concede. The Crows’ cause wasn’t helped with coach and league leading goal kicker Daniel Fry spending the majority of the final term on the bench, consigning himself to a goalless afternoon.
It was the Saints who stood up when it counted, controlling possession for much of the final term to deny the Crows their first place in an EDFL grand final since the split competition in 2014. The contest showed enough to suggest the teams would produce an epic grand final in dry conditions, although the Crows have to first get over the Warragul Industrials in a home preliminary final on Saturday. The match had been nip and tuck throughout before the Saints broke away with a final quarter burst that brought the final three goals of the match.
Shaun Beecroft, Sam Burns, Spooner, Sam Dixon, Schultz and Ben Hallas were the better players who helped the Saints book their place in the decider.
Ruckman Nicholas Redley, Cole Cook, Russell Lehman, Jake Delphine, Nathan Fry and Troy Lehman were the better players for the Crows in an effort that indicated they they have what it takes to match it with the Saints.