Augusta Margaret River’s finals dream is still alive after a thrilling one-point come-from-behind win over South Bunbury at Hands Oval on Sunday afternoon.
The Hawks trailled the Tigers at every change, but hit the front throughout a final quarter which saw the lead change several times.
However it was a defensive blunder from the Tigers that gifted Mitchell Gerrans a goal in the dying minutes that sealed the Hawks’ win.
With scores level late in the game and the ball deep in the Hawks’ forward line, the Tigers rushed a behind – giving the Hawks a one point lead.
In an attempt to move the ball quickly, the Tigers defender overstepped the goal square when taking the kick in, leading to a ball up deep in attack which resulted in Gerrans’ decisive goal.
South Bunbury was able to counter just moments later with Guy Piggott’s third goal of the final quarter, but the seven-point play at the other end meant the Tigers were still one point behind when the final siren sounded.
Hawks coach Matt Jamieson and the travelling fans ran onto the field as the final siren sounded to congratulate the players on the win, which saw the Hawks trail by six goals at one point in the second quarter.
It was a disastrous start for the Hawks, who were looking for their first finals win since their victory over South Bunbury in the 2011 grand final, as they failed to capitalise on their possession and watched as the Tigers streaked out to a solid lead.
The Tigers regularly pushed their forwards and midfielders up the ground to flood the Hawks’ forward line and then raced back towards goal after securing the turnover to great effect.
Despite the ball spending most of its time in the Hawks’ forward half, Augusta Margaret River managed just the one behind in the first half, while South Bunbury kicked four goals through Piggott, Leigh Kohlmann, Jay Crossman and Rocco Versace.
It went from bad to worse for the Hawks as the Tigers came out and further extended the lead with Kohlmann’s second and a goal to Jed Montgomerie to push the margin out to six goals.
But it was at that point that midfielder Mitch Lynn and forward Mitch Payne stood up for the Hawks as the important pair kicked two goals each in the term to drag the Hawks back into the game.
Trailling by three goals at half time, the Hawks had the momentum but it was the Tigers who fired the first strike of the second half as Kohlmann kicked his third goal.
But not to be outdone, the Hawks kicked the next three goals, including a huge snap from Lynn for his third, to bring themselves within a kick of the lead.
However some acts of ill discipline in the Hawks’ midfield and backline saw South Bunbury receive a free kick directly in front of goal immediately after Matt Giacci popped one through, to take the margin back to three goals.
Two late third-quarter goals to Jack Hick and Brett Dobson set up the thrilling final quarter.
It looked early like the Hawks might run away with the win after Hick and Rhys Owen put Augusta Margaret River seven points up, only for Piggott to level the scores minutes later.
Payne put the Hawks back in front, before the Tigers kicked two in quick succession to retake the lead they had held for most of the afternoon.
But it wasn’t the end as Beau Morgan snapped an important goal to draw the teams level before Gerrans capitalised for the sealer.
Lynn, Payne and Hick all finished with three goals, while Kohlmann and Piggott ended the day with four apiece for South Bunbury.
The win, which was the Hawks’ seventh from their last eight games, sets up a showdown with Eaton at Glen Huon Reserve on Sunday, after the Boomers fell to Bunbury by nine points in the qualifying final.
The Hawks beat the Boomers by 21 points the last time they played in round 15.