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From The Age
Reported by Brent Diamond
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Sandringham had the answers when it mattered most against Port Melbourne to win an intense elimination final by 45 points at North Port Oval on Sunday.
 
Dylan Weickhardt of Sandringham handballs during the VFL elimination final match between Port Melbourne and Sandringham.

 

Dylan Weickhardt of Sandringham handballs during the VFL elimination final match between Port Melbourne and Sandringham. Photo: Graham Denholm/AFL Media

 

The Zebras, who meet reigning premier Williamstown in next Saturday's semi-final at North Port Oval, appeared galvanised after a turbulent finish to the home and away season, in which they lost six of their last seven matches.

In the background was a coach, Paul Hudson, who recently said he will be leaving the club at the end of the season, along with news of an alignment extension with St Kilda, which is set to allow more Saints – and less Zebras – to develop their craft in the VFL senior team, rather than in the development league, from next season.

After taking the scalp of former Hawthorn premiership teammate and Port coach Gary Ayres, Hudson will be keen to also get some glory over another former Hawk, Andy Collins, at the Seagulls on Saturday.

"We will take a lot out of what Collingwood maybe did to them [Williamstown]," Hudson said after the win.

Despite finishing in seventh, they have the belief to challenge for a flag, desperate to atone for a preliminary final exit last season.

The winner of the Zebras-Seagulls clash next week will face minor premier Casey Scorpions in the preliminary final, after they defeated Footscray in Saturday's qualifying final.

Tom Lee's five goals on return was a major factor in the victory, as was Cameron Shenton, whose fourth goal at the start of the final term, was just as crucial.

Trent Dennis-Lane has also had a major influence, returning from a shoulder injury, with three goals.

"We thought if we could get back to some of the footy that we played in the first half of the season … we [had] the leg speed to run over these guys and I thought we executed that well," Dennis-Lane said.

Tom Curren, after receiving the news of being delisted by St Kilda during the week, racked up 14 disposals in the opening term – and finished with 31. Myke Cook (24 disposals) and Eli Templeton (22) were other solid contributors.   

Port Melbourne put in another blue-collar-like performance, but are ranked the least effective team in the competition for kicking efficiency,  which ultimately cost them in their time of need on Sunday.

After Shenton's final-quarter goal, Port attempted to take the game on, but an errant kick meant Lewis Pierce put the Zebras in a commanding position with a five-goal buffer.

This was after defender-turned-forward Brody Mihocek kicked two goals in two minutes to reduce the deficit to 10 points, nearing the last change, before Dennis-Lane gave the Zebras a late reprieve.

It was the Borough's eighth finals series from nine years in Ayres' tenure. While Toby Pinwill, Matt Arnot, Chris Cain, Mack Rivett and Leigh Osborne served them well, they finish they season noticing more gaps in their line-up than when they began.

VFL semi-finals

Saturday:

1st semi-final: Williamstown v Sandringham, North Port Oval, 11.40am

Sunday:

2nd semi-final: Footscray v Essendon, North Port Oval, 2.40pm