BEACH LIFTS PRESSURE LEVELS
Going into finals football it is widely accepted that regardless of the level of the competition the intensity will rise a few degrees.
It is a question of which team handles the tempo better, makes fewer errors as a result and capitalises on the opportunities.
When the O’Rourke Realty A-Grade team travelled to Bill Grayden Reserve to play Trinity Aquinas in the WAAFL first semi-final they knew they would need to find another gear. The reigning premiers boast some big names with big game experience and the Tigers were expecting some heat.
But rather than waiting to see what the Boomers would bring, it was the Beach that set the high water mark in terms of the pressure. They were pro-active, rather than reactive and took on the challenge.
A brilliant start was the cornerstone of a victory – 10.8 (68) to 8.3 (51) – that propelled the Beach into next Saturday’s preliminary final against Fremantle CBC.
From the outset the pressure from the Beach was manic, closing down the time and space that TA’s required to use the ball effectively.
Only for a brief period, in the second half of the second quarter, did the Boomers get the game on their terms, kicking four goals in succession to be just two points in arrears at the main break.
They also led twice for brief periods in the third quarter, but the mindset and commitment of the Beach was relentless, so much so that Trinity Aquinas, with the game on the line, could not score in the final quarter.
There were stars everywhere for the Beach in an inspired team performance, all the meritorious because they were down a man before half-time when Nathan Dwyer strained a groin. That situation was compounded when Kyle Cranley received a yellow card.
It was in that period, when the Beach was reduced to two rotations from the bench, that Trinity Aquinas made their big move.
But the Tigers were unshakeable and led by midfield stars Sam Lamont, Dan Leishman, Chris Bryan and Beau Witheridge, they were both resilient and relentless.
Young ruckman Josh Chapman also had an impact while Nic Reid, Ryan Ekert and Cranley provided contests up forward and both Tim Edwards and Dylan Campbell consistently helped locked the ball in with ferocious tackling pressure.
While those players were effective in the offensive aspect, they were all part of the team defence strategy too. And in the back half, Tom Hooper, Michael Taylor and Matt Irvine were exceptional.
Hooper had the task of curbing former Fremantle forward Ryan Murphy, who traditionally plays well against the Tigers, and was outstanding in his defensive role, holding his opponent to just one goal.
Irvine and Taylor did their bit as defenders, but also launched many an offensive thrust from the back half.
It was an outstanding team performance where every player contributed. They will need more of the same next week in the preliminary final against CBC at Morris Buzzacott Reserve.
Three advance to big dance
Step one in the list of season objectives is to win enough qualifying matches to ensure finals are on the agenda.
Step two is about pushing as high inside the top five as possible to create to best opportunity to capitalise on that position.
On Saturday, the North Beach Lifenet A-Reserves, Plasterwise Phil Scott Colts and the Express Bins E2-Grade all converted the opportunity created over 18 home and away rounds to advance to their respective grand finals.
They capitalised in various fashion, but essentially when the heat was on, the Beach handled the pressure better.
The A-Reserves finished the season on top of the ladder, had a week off to rejuvenate and refresh and then proved too strong for Trinity-Aquinas, winning 8.8 (56) to 3.10 (28) in a  clinical team performance.
After a few soft wins in the lead up to finals, when they dominated lesser opposition, there was a chance it would take this young team time to adjust to the increased intensity of finals. They were scratchy early, but after a slow start they re-discovered their mojo and were emphatic winners.
The victory was built around a dominant midfield, where Arran Goddard-Nash was outstanding in conjunction with Brod Walton, Dan Ryan and Peter Hoitis, while Walton also pushed forward and kicked four goals.
Makeshift ruckman Adam Miotti worked hard and Michael Schofield and Jordan Brooks provided  targets up forward while defensively Cam Hoskins and Jamie Sajich were outstanding.
They have earned another week off in preparation for the grand final where they will defend the title they won last year.
The Phil Scott Colts also converted an opportunity to take the direct route to the grand final, eclipsing University in a commanding victory that was set up through a ferocious first half.
The Beach surprised their highly-regarded opponents with a frenetic attack on the ball and the opposition player in possession, establishing a five goal lead at the main break off the back off that unbridled enthusiasm and penchant for the contest.
While the Scholars adjusted after half-time and played the game largely in their attacking zone, the Beachremained resolute and did not turn down the heat on the way to a 6.2 (38) to 2.11 (23) victory.
The standard-bearer for the pressure was small forward Travis Burton and others followed his example, closing down the options from defence that University like to use to launch their offensive.
At the other end of the ground, Nick Barker, Jack Merson and Jamie Bennett held up when Uni surged in the second half, while Conor Brown, Jake Wright, Dave Purser and Nick Baroni were combative in the midfield.
Up forward Lachlan Gardiner and Blake Sawyer worked hard and were a constant threat.
Meanwhile, in faraway Forrestfield, the E2-Grade vaulted into the grand final with a stunning win over Bullcreek Leeming, reversing an earlier result in this finals series with a solid 16-point victory – 9.8 (62) to 7.4 (46).
The Beach produced some quality football, built around the ruck work of star ruckman James Hay-Hendry.
In addition, Jay Alison-Green continued his rich vein of form and in conjunction with the likes of David Gelle, who was best afield, stalwart Brett Anthony, Michael Bramley and Jacob Cropley, they carried too much fire-power for the opposition.
They will play Fremantle CBC in the Grand Final at Wanneroo Showgrounds this Saturday, starting at 1.15pm.