WAFL Semi-Finals Wrap
Claremont are the first team through to the 2020 WAFL Grand Final after dismantling minor premiers South Fremantle by 47 points at Fremantle Oval on Sunday.
The beleaguered Bulldogs will now have to qualify for the decider on October 4th the hard way, needing to beat West Perth next Sunday after the Falcons ended Perth’s premiership dream with a hard fought 11 point win at Arena Joondalup.
The Demons had support in numbers in their first finals appearance since 1997, fans flocking North in their droves to see the team in red and black take on the Falcons on their home patch.
In difficult conditions the Falcons started the better kicking with the aid of a strong breeze, kicking the first three goals of the match through Tyler Keitel, Keegan Knott and Mitchell Pierce.
Perth were in the game in general play but hadn’t hit the scoreboard in a meaningful way by quarter time, registering only one behind to the first change.
Earl Spalding’s men responded when it was their turn to kick with the breeze in the second term, kicking three goals to nil of their own to level the scores at the half.
Brady Grey was having an impact in midfield for the visitors, Andrew Fisher providing support and Brant College a tackling machine in game 100.
The third term became an arm wrestle as Perth looked to defend knowing they would have the breeze in the last term, the wet weather arriving to make scoring difficult.
Both teams kicked 1.2 for the quarter to set up a grandstand finish, the winner through to a preliminary final and the loser staring at the end of their season.
When Matt Rogers kicked his second goal it appeared as though the Demons might be on their way to a second famous triumph in as many weeks as the pressure and conditions began to take their toll on both sides, but the Falcons had other ideas.
Pierce kicked his second before Luke Meadows put the Falcons back in front early in time on, a lead they would not relinquish.
Keitel broke free of Clayton Giblett to kick what proved to be the game sealing goal at the 22-minute mark, ending Perth’s finals fairy tale in the process with a 7.6 (48) to 5.7 (37) result.
Three goals in the final term against the breeze against a desperate Demons side sealed a famous finals win for Geoff Valentine’s men, who suffered a similarly gut wrenching defeat to West Coast in a cut throat final at the same venue in similar weather conditions last year.
Trent Manzone led all comers with 26 disposals for the Falcons, Meadows telling late with 24 goals and his crucial last term goal while Shane Nelson and Blake Wilhelm (23 disposals) found plenty of the ball.
Grey never stopped trying for Perth with 24 disposals, Matthew Taylor impactful with 18 disposals in defence, Fraser McInnes with 16 disposals and College finishing with 14 possessions and a season high 19 tackles in a strong effort in the clinches.
Claremont upset minor premiers South Fremantle in a grind of a second semi-final at Fremantle Oval, Alec Waterman starring with four goals for the Tigers as they booked their first Grand Final appearance since 2012.
It was a low scoring slog early, Mason Shaw missing a gettable opportunity in the opening moments before Waterman pounced on an errant handball from Chad Pearson to slot the game’s first goal after five minutes.
It would prove to be the only goal of the opening term as stoppages and scrappy passages became the norm, a strong cross breeze meaning the ball was locked on the outer wing for most of the quarter, neither side willing to take any risks.
The second term followed a similar theme, but Claremont were able to move the ball more efficiently after Travis Abbott registered South Fremantle’s third behind for the game early in the quarter.
Waterman was the beneficiary of a down field free kick to slot his second, while Tyron Smallwood converted a 40 metre set shot to give his side the only three goals of the opening half to have the Bulldogs on their knees at the break.
Tom Lee added another a minute in to the third quarter to make the margin 26 points, Haiden Schloithe finally getting his team on the board after winning a free kick in a marking contest 20 metres out from goal.
Waterman was simply unstoppable up forward for the Tigers, dominating direct opponent John Levien for strength and speed as he kicked his third after a strong contested mark, having missed two shots earlier in the term.
Caleb Datson reduced the deficit to 22 points with South’s second goal of the term and indeed the match but there was little to suggest the minor premiers had fuel in the tank to engineer a comeback similar to their match against East Perth in round 8, where they kicked 8 goals to none in the last term to storm home.
Abbott gave them hope with the first of the last, but it would be their third and final goal of a largely dismal afternoon as the Tigers emphatically shut the door on the contest, Alex Manuel slotting a clutch major from the boundary before Jye Bolton made certain of the result with a long range effort.
By the time Waterman added his fourth it was party time for Darren Harris’ men, Manuel providing a cameo in the last with three goals as Claremont ran away with the game to win 10.11 (71) to 3.6 (24).
It was South Fremantle’s lowest ever score against Claremont in the 279 meetings between the clubs, while 23 inside 50’s was the equal lowest inside 50 count by any team this year, matching East Fremantle’s effort against the Dogs in round one of this season.
Bolton had 27 disposals to go with his last quarter major for the Tigers, Declan Mountford with 22 disposals and 15 tackles in a huge midfield effort, Ryan Lim with 21 touches while Waterman was the most impactful player on the ground, kicking 4.3 to go with 17 disposals.
Chad Pearson had 21 disposals for the home side, Jason Maskos with 18 and Blayne Wilson 16, all members of the Bulldogs backline to illustrate where the ball was parked for large durations of the match.
Four teams have now become three, with Claremont through to play in the Grand Final in two weeks time while South Fremantle face West Perth at Fremantle Oval next Sunday for a spot in the WAFL decider.
IMAGE: WAFL Twitter.