CAULFIELD COMES LATE BUT THE UNCANNY X-MEN HOLD ON
Old Xaverians defeated Caulfield Grammarians by four points in a hard-fought first semi-final at Elsternwick today.
The teams had met three times during the regular season and the results were split 1-2 in favour of the Fieldsmen.
By HQ standards, the breeze was insignificant, slightly favouring the Elsternwick Hotel pocket. It was to that pocket that Xavs directed most of their attacks in the opening stanza. The cricket practice wickets are no more, but it is still the deadest of dead pockets, and a trap for young players not familiar with the vagaries of Premiership Park.
The Red 'n' Blacks dominated the first stanza but couldn't find the big sticks often enough. The Fieldsmen, with a minimum of possession and fuss managed one to broken scoreboard end. A three goal lead at the first change was not a true indication of the chasm between the two teams.
Coach Sam Shaw was happy with the team's KPIs and encouraged them to maintain their endeavour. His charges played to instruction and quelled any blue and white resurgence.
The Claret and Stout came hard in the third term, but squandered their opportunity to put the game away. At the lemons, they had had double the shots and double the score. But was a 26 point advantage enough? As it transpired, just.
Caulfield came home hard, booting five straight. Puzzling decisions from the men in lime didn't help the X Men much. There was five minutes left when the Fields scored their last, a sensational check-side from the impossible pocket.
After that, the game resembled a rugby scrum, with Caulfield trying desperately to release the ball and Xavs trying desperately to lock it down for a bounce. Late in the piece, the Grammarians had their final chance. The ball came out on the wing and was headed by foot towards the danger zone, but Lucas Socchi threw himself on the boot and smothered it out of bounds.
After that, the scrum was resumed and then the siren went.
Three of this team had played senior football this winter - Soccio, Mickey Batten and Jordan "Arzani" Troiani - and in highly tense contest, that experience proved valuable. But the day belonged to James Dalbosco, who was near his best when his team really needed him.
The Shaw Things are alive and will meet De La Salle at a time and place to be announced. Another win will pit them against Old Scotch in the Grand Final.
Old Xaverians 3.7-25 4.9-33 6.16-52 7.18-60
Caulfield Grammarians 1.1-7 2.4-16 3.8-26 8.8-56
Goals: J. Dalbosco 2, L. Soccio 2, L. Agnoletto 1, E. Ralph 1, B. Scala 1
Best: J. Dalbosco, O. Fraser, J. Unger, M. Batten, J. Troiani, L. Agnoletto
Thanks to Sarah Hess for the best of the snaps below.