THEY ALL FALL DOWN: Swans coach Xavier Moloney keeps his feet in pursuit of a loose ball. PICTURE — Pamela BlackmanWOORINEN will take on Cohuna in the 2014 elimination final after blowing a 28-point three-quarter time lead against Swan Hill on Saturday.
The Tigers looked stronger early but failed to fully capitalise on a strong breeze in a dominant first quarter, leaving enough room for the Swans to storm home in the last quarter and trump the home side.
While early defensive efforts from the likes of Xavier Moloney and Jared Haligan were pleasing, they also served to highlight the nature of Woorinen’s quick start.
Dwayne Hamlyn continued on from a hard-fought first quarter to be the Tigers’ best, while Moloney’s solid contribution around the ground was complemented by Toby Thoolen and Arnold Kirby who came in to the game when the Swans’ needed marking targets in the absence of Hugh Foott.
Early shots on goal from Matthew Pell and Jamie Nicholas were foiled by a hardworking Swans’ defence, before Nicholas converted the game’s first major after marking inside 50m when a Swan Hill kick out of defence was sent straight back inside by the home team.
Other opportunities from multiple inside 50s didn’t result in majors though and, when the Swans converted from a scrappy goal square exchange up the other end, the margin was only one point.
Being closer than they should have been, the Swans grew in confidence playing with the wind in the second term.
Goals to Jon Hirst and Jed Dow were met with one reply from Woorinen.
While the margin was only eight points the real test was to come in the third quarter.
If Woorinen could capitalise on its opportunities it could put the Swans away and book a qualifying final berth.
And for half an hour the game appeared to be going to just that script.
Nicholas — who finished the day with a game-high three goals — was proving a handy target for the Tigers, while Doug Palmer bobbed up with an important two consecutive goals midway through the premiership quarter.
On one occasion Nicholas managed to goal after finding himself in a three-on-one situation inside the Tigers’ 50m area. Gathering the ball, he worked his way free of an opponent, snapping a team-lifting goal.
While Woorinen had missed some key chances to move further ahead, it appeared to have the momentum going into the last quarter.
Halligan had other ideas, however, urging his side to win back some respect in the last term. And while his three-quarter time pleas sparked the Swans into life, the visitors’ cause was aided by a listless last half an hour from the home side.
The Swans looked more lively from the start of the last term, with coach Moloney narrowing the margin after a mark inside 50m.
A goal to Paddy Down brought the Swans closer still and the game was alive.
While Aaron Cadd took a typically courageous defensive mark in front of Thoolen to prevent a certain goal, it was apparent the Tigers would need to hit the scoreboard themselves to hold on to the game.
A shot on goal from Anthony Alderuccio was touched over the line by Swan Hill, with the behind one of three to the Tigers in the last term.
When Moloney received a handball and goaled off one step from 50m out directly in front, the Swans edged closer still.
A Halligan goal and exuberant celebration signified the Swans were within one straight kick of leading for the first time.
With little time remaining, the result appeared likely to go the way of the side more willing to take the game on.
That side was the Swans, and when Thoolen marked and goaled they had pulled off the great escape.
Woorinen will rue a game that got away, although the Swans can rightly consider to have had all the aces up their sleeves, trumping the Tigers in the last term.
Woorinen will need to regroup quickly ahead of an elimination final at Tooleybuc against a similarly dispirited Cohuna, which went down easily to Kerang.
The Swans take on Tooleybuc Manangatang in an intriguing qualifying final at Kerang.
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