Leeton-Whitton kept their premiership aspirations alive with an impressive 19-point win over Mangoplah-Cookardinia United-Eastlakes on Sunday.
The Crows produced some of their best football of the year to come from 30 points down and end the Goannas’ season, 13.11 (89) to 10.10 (70) at Narrandera Sportsground.
With Brent Arho firing early and Ryan Price threatening, MCUE started strongly and opened up a 30-point lead early in the second quarter.
But the Crows responded with some of the best football of the season, kicking five goals in the space of eight minutes to take a narrow one-point lead into half-time.
Both teams went goal for goal early in the third term, before a couple of Jimmy Nancarrow goals helped the Crows establish an 18-point lead at three-quarter-time.
When Jade Hodge kicked his third in the fifth minute of the final term, it stretched the margin to 22 points, which proved too much for the Goannas.
Hodge, Leeton-Whitton’s coach, was not surprised by the Crows comeback.
“Coming into today, I knew our best is good enough,” Hodge said.
“We’ve had the wood over these blokes, I just think we match up really well on them and we can stretch them forward because they’re not overly tall down back. I think we used the space of the ground, in particular, to the best of our ability and really isolated our forwards which helped.
“I’m really proud of the boys and for such a young group, to respond after the way Mango started was a fantastic effort.”
The Crows’ forwards and the way they moved the ball forward proved the difference in the end.
Hodge, Daniel Muir, Brad Boots and Cooper Sharman all had an influence on the contest, on the back of some brilliant supply through the second and third quarters.
Leeton-Whitton’s youngsters also shone with Sam Hooper, Bailey Wood, Hugh Collins and Tyh Evans all bringing some pace and excitement to the Crows’ game.
Mason Dryburgh also dominated in the ruck and took several marks around the ground, while Bryce O’Garey and Matt Rainbird were influential.
Arho and Price finished with three goals apiece for the Goannas, and they were the two most dangerous players.
Arho faded out of the game as the opportunities dried up and the Crows’ defence got smarter, while Price threatened consistently throughout the day.
Trent Cohalan and Nick McCormack also battled hard for four quarters.
The Crows will now take plenty of confidence into next Sunday’s first semi-final with Ganmain-Grong Grong-Matong at Narrandera Sportsground.
“If we can isolate our forwards, even Ganmain, I think we match up really well against them on a bigger ground,” Hodge said.
“Obviously they’ve got a pretty potent forward line, so we’ve got to stop them but I think our back six have been good all year.
“We’re excited and as a young group will take plenty of confidence out of today.”