PORT MELBOURNE: 1.1 6.2 11.5 15.10 (100)
SANDRINGHAM 4.5 10.8 13.11 22.13 (145)
PORT MELBOURNE: Mihocek 3, Rivett 3, Arnot 2, Osborne 2, Iaccarino, Clarke, Golby, Lange, Lisle
SANDRINGHAM: Lee 5, Shenton 4, Dennis-Lane 3, Templeton 2, Wilkins 2, Fisscher, Pierce, Answerth, Cook, Grace, Sinclair
PORT MELBOURNE: Tynan, Arnot, Cain, Mihocek, Rivett, Lange
SANDRINGHAM: Longer, Noone, Curren, Lee, Cook, Shenton
After a victorious Sandringham belted out the song with extra gusto, senior coach Paul Hudson sat his players down.
Glowing from a comprehensive 45-point win over Port Melbourne in Sunday’s elimination final, he told them it was their best performance of the season.
That’s because it was.
From the first bounce, Sandringham looked a million miles from a team who had surrendered six of their last seven games. Many had written them off coming into Sunday’s do or die final, but they were manic, direct and punishing by foot.
Outside a brief lapse in the third which saw Port Melbourne cut the Zebras’ lead to 11 points, Sandringham were irresistible all afternoon.
Everywhere you looked, Sandringham had winners. Defensive pressure made it difficult for the Borough forwards. Midfield got first use from a dominant Billy Longer, while the forwards made every post a winner.
Five straight goals early gave the Zebras a 22-point lead at quarter time. Port Melbourne were always going to respond.
Sandringham had a knack all afternoon of answering every challenge that the Boroughs threw at them.
In the second quarter, after Port Melbourne kicked three straight to slash the Zebras’ lead to 10 points, goals to Myke Cook, Cam Shenton and Mitch Wilkins extended the margin back out to 29-points.
Likewise, in the third quarter. Two quick goals to Brody Mihocek cut Sandringham’s margin to 11 points. Up stepped skipper Trent Dennis-Lane, who nailed a clutch major to knock all the wind out of Port Melbourne’s sails.
Nine goals in the last quarter rounded out a first class victory and booked a date with Williamstown in next Saturday’s semi-final.
For Hudson to mention the players who cracked in it would have taken him into the evening. There were 23 of them.
It was a good time for Sandringham’s key forwards to bring their kicking boots. In a high-scoring shootout, the Zebra forwards were unstoppable.
Cam Shenton continued his mighty fine season with four majors, while Trent Dennis-Lane, in just his third game back from an injury lay-off, got his touch back with three goals.
However, it was the performance of Tom Lee that stole the headlines. Moved forward to further complement Shenton, Dennis-Lane and Joe Fisscher, Lee was dominant with five goals. It was reminiscent of former Zeb Mitch Brown’s match winning performance against Collingwood in last year’s semi-final.
As mentioned, the midfield was full of grunt and pressure all afternoon – laying 93 (+33) tackles. Given first use thanks to 49 hitouts from Billy Longer, Myke Cook put in a near best-on performance with 24 disposals, 10 tackles and nine inside 50s.
Kade Answerth was a workhorse on the inside with 11 tackles, while Tom Curren was polished for his game-high 31 touches.
While in the defensive 50, Elliott Le Grice and Jack Noone, who were given greater license to drive from Hudson, both played an unheralded, but vital role.
Le Grice was a general, directing the play and cutting off anything that came his way, while Noone was excellent in shutting down Port Melbourne star Sam Dwyer.
Sandringham will head back to North Port Oval next Saturday at 11:40am, looking to extend their season by another week against the Seagulls.