The Ovens & Murray qualifying final between Yarrawonga and Lavington on Saturday left spectators talking more about the standard of umpiring than the two competing teams.STEPHEN HICKS September 2, 2014 3:15pm
The Yarrawonga Pigeons won a hard fought contest against Lavington Panthers at the W J Findlay Oval in Wangaratta by 29 points to set up a grand final qualifier with the Albury Tigers. However the contest will long be remembered for the poor standard of officiating.
Both teams were frustrated at times and several scuffles were directly attributed to a series of questionable umpiring decision.
On a happier note, the game was officially Xavier Leslie’s 200th for the YFNC senior team, making him the fourth Pigeon in the history of the club to reach the milestone.
The game began with Yarrawonga kicking to the city end of the oval which was in fine, finals condition.
At the first bounce Lavington was awarded a free kick and that trend was consistent all day. Lavington were gifted a number of scoring opportunities but could only manage four behinds for the term.
Pigeon defenders Marcus McMillan and Richard Handreck were great in their attack on the football. A scuffle saw both sides down to 17 men after Pigeon Kayne Pettifer and Panther Hargreave were sent from the ground.
The Pigeons scored only 2 behinds for the term, although the defence and midfield were solid for the Pigeons.
Bronson Schofield was excellent in his attack on the ball and long kicking while Craig Ednie, Xavier Leslie and Tyler Bonat were dominant at times.
Jeremy O’Brien and Connor Hargreaves provided great run and precision possessions.
The Pigeons trailed by 2 points at the first change, however no team was able to score a goal such was the pressure.
The second term saw cheers around the ground after the Pigeons received a rare free kick. However Lavington kicked two goals and the Pigeons were 16 points down, but young guns Schofield and Hargreaves teamed with Kayne Pettifer who snapped the ball in from the boundary and found Brendan Fevola who kicked the Pigeons opening goal after several minutes of congested play.
Lavington scored a goal going into the time on period before Marcus McMillan from deep defence created a passage of play that went through the hands of O’Connor, Pettifer, and Fevola and ended with O’Brien who kicked a goal to reduce the margin to a 9 point deficit.
After earlier being left grounded, Xavier Leslie was forced from the ground twice under the blood rule.
Brandon Symes who was quiet early started to win crucial possessions and combined with Pettifer, Ednie and Leslie to move the ball forward with class. After Craig Ednie was put down, Connor Hargreaves received the downfield free kick and goaled with 30 seconds remaining.
The Pigeons won the next centre clearance and Pettifer marked just before the siren. He kicked truly and the Pigeons went into the main break four points in front and with momentum.
The third quarter started with a rush of decisions against the Pigeons and in particular Brendan Fevola who was being manhandled but the free kicks were going in reverse.
And the results saw Lavington get five scoring shots but only kick 1 goal; and take the lead by 6 points after 16 minutes of play.
The Pigeons were resilient against a weight of numbers and after a behind by dynamic midfielder Tim Cooper; man mountain Brandon Symes kicked a goal to regain the lead for the Pigeons. Again the midfield of Ednie, Schofield, Leslie, Cooper and Bonat were winning a mountain of the ball.
The Pigeons defensive pressure was superb and Fevola proved himself a team player when a chase and tackle caused a turnover and Ednie found Matt Gorman and O’Connor marked and kicked the Pigeons to an 8 point lead.
The Pigeons had Ednie go down again and then in succession Cooper and then Hargreaves come from the ground in discomfort. At three quarter time, the Pigeons led by 8 points.
After dominating for the past two quarters, Brandon Symes took the opening mark of the last term with a great pack mark.
Fevola kicked a point, before Prior kicked Lavington a goal and to within 4 points of the lead. Matt Gorman was winning possessions and teamed well with the midfield to drive the ball forward.
Schofield won a crucial 1 on 3 battle on the win and Hargreaves was strong in the contest.
Symes kicked the Pigeons seventh goal for the game and the Pigeons had total momentum with Pettifer kicking 3 goals in five minutes to see the Pigeons into the second semi-final against Albury.
Against odds the Pigeons scored a great win and with a number of reserves available and Brady Pritchard and Dan Howe available after the Murray Bushrangers season finished, the Pigeons will have plenty to ponder at selection.
The second semi-final will be played at the John Foord Oval in Corowa next Saturday against arch nemesis the Albury Tigers.
Best Players:Brandon Symes, Marcus McMillan, Connor Hargreaves, Bronson Schofield, Xavier Leslie, Craig Ednie, Kayne Pettifer, Tim Cooper.
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