Glenelg honoured club favourite Andrew Bradley with a gritty 16-point Elimination Final win against Sturt at the Adelaide Oval.
At no stage did the Tigers look convincing but they did enough to advance to the First Semi-Final after responding to each of the Double Blues’ challenges after quarter-time.
Without Magarey Medallist Luke Partington (injured foot) and squeezing out ruckman Angus Cole, the Tigers extended their winning streak over Sturt to six while preventing the Blues from winning their first major round match since the 2017 Grand Final.
With an even spread of contributors, the Bays dealt their opponent a blow when classy wingman Cooper Horsnell finished superbly on the run deep into time-on of the third term.
It opened up a 14-point advantage at the final change which in the context of the error-riddled, pressure-packed contest was significant.
Sturt’s Oli Grivell – who along with Horsnell was the only multiple goal scorer on the ground – kicked his second five minutes into the final term to draw within seven points.
But Matt Allen – the Tigers’ leading disposal-winner with 24 – nailed a massive set shot goal from long range to extend his side’s buffer beyond two goals.
Sturt forward Tom Emmett replied with a set shot from 35m on a slight angle to give his side a pulse but when Glenelg’s Luke Reynolds ran onto a loose ball over the back of the pack into an open goal, the Bays sealed victory.
Glenelg’s band of willing workers was led by Allen with 24 touches while Matthew Snook and Billy Stretch each had 20 disposals in the centre square.
Liam McBean, who received support from Riley Holder at the stoppages, rucked tirelessly for 17 disposals, six marks and a goal from 50m while Bradley had 16 disposals and six crunching tackles in his 200th Hostplus League match.
Horsnell used the ball nicely with his 16 touches and two goals while Tigers coach Brett Hand must wish he had two Toby Pinks given the versatile utility plays a valuable role wherever he’s used, this time taking nine marks with 13 disposals chiefly in defence.
Sturt’s dynamic midfield duo of Tom Lewis and James Battersby (23 disposals each) were outstanding at the stoppages, winning 23 clearances between them.
Casey Voss had a game high 27 disposals for the Double Blues while Guy Page finished off his strong personal season with 16 possessions across half-back.
Matthew Snook (Glenelg) v James Battersby (Sturt)
Working away at the feet of the ruckman, the head-to-head duel between midfield mainstays Matthew Snook and James Battersby proved tantalising.
Glenelg’s Brady Searle looked to have the match-up on the Sturt skipper at the opening bounce, but Snook transitioned onto him as Battersby jumped out of the blocks.
Combining remarkably well with fellow inside ball winner Tommy Lewis, Battersby was dominant at the stoppages with his clearance winning and strong tackling.
Despite copping a big hit in the second term, Snook’s grunt work and clean hands in congestion proved vital for the Bays, particularly with Magarey Medalist Luke Partington missing through a foot injury.
Although Battersby and Lewis were outstanding, the Glenelg on-baller still managed 20 possessions, three marks, five tackles and five clearances as the Bays progressed to the second week of finals.
Liam McBean (Glenelg) v Daniel Fahey-Sparks (Sturt)
Glenelg sent three-time Ken Farmer Medallist Liam McBean into the ruck to take on Sturt Daniel Fahey-Sparks in the Elimination Final.
Although Fahey-Sparks and the Sturt midfield gained the ascendancy in the hit-outs and clearances, McBean looked to use his marking power to advantage over the Double Blues big man.
A renowned finisher in-front of goal, McBean’s long-range major in the dying stages of the first term drew scores level.
As the game wore on, McBean spent more time up forward with Riley Holder using his leap to good effect in the ruck.
McBean’s ability to get involved around the ground in general play was important, as he finished with 17 disposals, six marks, three clearances and a goal.