Donnybrook booked its place in its first South West Football League grand final since 2001 after a dominant 26-point semi-final win over Bunbury in front of a vocal home crowd at VC Mitchell Park on Sunday.
In the battle between the league’s most potent forward line and the league’s strongest backline, defence was the key influence on the day as both teams combined for the lowest-scoring semi-final game in seven years.
The respective defences, led by captains Shane Cristaldi and Codey Hay, held up strongly and spoiled almost every marking opportunity available inside the forward arcs throughout the match.
Kicking with the wind in the first quarter, the Dons needed to take control of the game early and they did just that as Brett Eades capitalised on a long forward 50 entry that cleared the marking contest and ran into a open goal to put the Dons on the board.
Hayward Medal contender Chris Atthowe then made it two not long later after slotting a deadly accurate set shot from the boundary.
Brett Peake almost got in on the action at the other end, but his long range shot was adjudged to have been a behind, to the dismay of the travelling fans.
The Dons then continued their dream start when a lucky bounce in front of goal took the ball away from the Bulldogs’ defender and into the hands of Eades, who slotted his second to open up a three-goal lead.
The Bulldogs then worked their way into the game late in the first quarter, but big forward Matt Martin was the only player able to hit the scoreboard.
With a 13-point lead at quarter time, the Dons didn’t let up and a strong mark on the lead early in the second quarter saw Eades slot his third.
Jace Cormack and Dion Parker were pivotal in the Dons’ attacking forays, with Parker hitting the scoreboard in the second term when his opponent slipped over and left him unattended.
Bunbury rallied late in the term when a huge snap from Mark Longbottom caught the breeze and sailed over the goal line, before Martin kicked his second to close the first half with the Bulldogs trailling by just nine points.
The Bulldogs were confident they had weathered the best Donnybrook could throw at them throughout the first half, but it didn’t prove that way as Donnybrook took control in the premiership quarter.
The Dons kicked the next three goals, including a nice snap from Fraser Healey, while the Bulldogs were wasteful with possession and inaccurate in front of goals.
Needing to overcome a 27-point margin in the final term, the Bulldogs were able to limit the Dons’ attacking play but weren’t able to break the defensive shackles at the other end.
Donnybrook’s Lance Smith opened the scoring before Martin slotted his third of the game, but it was all the Bulldogs could muster as the final siren sounded on the 9.5 (59) to 4.9 (33) defeat.
The loss means Bunbury will face Augusta-Margaret River at Hands Oval next Sunday for a spot in the grand final after the Hawks held on against a late Eaton charge for a five-point win in the other semi final.
After narrowly getting past South Bunbury in the first week of the finals, the Hawks were determined to claim two wins from two.
Fans were out in force on Sunday as Augusta-Margaret River travelled to Glen Huon Reserve for an entertaining showdown against Eaton.
Both teams fought for control, but it was the Hawks that gained an edge and carried an 11-point lead into quarter time.
The clash benefited from impressive goals but was marred by several tussles.
The Hawks then used their guile to extend their 10-point half-time lead in the third term.
They fought off a fourth-quarter charge from Eaton to claim a five-point win, knocking another team from the Greater Bunbury region out of the competition.