The Fitzroy Stars all but locked in an A Plus Labour Solutions Division 2 finals place with a 14-point win over Thomastown in Round 16.
After a frustrating start, the Stars produced a dominant patch in the third term which helped set up the 12.14 (86) to 13.22 (100) victory at Main Street Reserve.
The win puts the third-placed Stars six points clear of fourth position, needing to win only one of their final two home and away games to book in their sixth-consecutive finals appearance.
On the flip side, the result puts the Bears’ finals hopes in jeopardy. They slipped to fifth position, behind fourth-placed Lower Plenty on percentage and may need to beat both North Heidelberg and Lower in the final two weeks to play finals.
Richard Bamblett, Peter Hood and Kain Proctor were the most instrumental players in Fitzroy’s victory, providing countless opportunities for the Stars in their attacking half. Clinton Benjamin also made a strong return.
Sashe Spiroski’s goal kicking form continued with five majors for Thomastown. Adrian Natoli, Jacob Osei-Duro and Matthew Dirkx were also impressive for the Bears.
The home side was the more dangerous in the opening quarter, producing continuous entries inside 50 to keep the Stars’ defence on edge.
After 12 minutes of play, Spiroski kicked the first goal of the afternoon to finally give the Bears’ reward for effort.
The Stars’ began to become visibly irritated with their poor disposal efficiency throughout the quarter, as they lost many opportunities to apply scoreboard pressure by turning the ball over at critical times.
Despite the frustrating start, the Stars would have been relieved to trail by only six points at quarter time.
Thomastown made the perfect start to the second quarter when Spiroski converted his second major to increase the margin to 12 points.
But suddenly, after seven consecutive behinds, the visitors not only found their first goal for the match but produced an exhilarating patch of brilliance.
The Stars kicked the next four goals within just five minutes of game time to put their host on the back foot.
Thomastown did well to arrest the momentum and quickly restored the margin in its own favour, kicking the next three goals, including two to Spiroski, to take a nine-point advantage into the main break.
Again Thomastown kicked the first goal of the quarter, this time through Koe Ngawati, to continue its momentum.
But just as the Bears looked like opening a handy advantage, Fitzroy was able to fight its way back into the match.
The Stars’ looked more dangerous with the football throughout the third quarter and kicked six of the next eight goals to go into the final break 15 points ahead.
Despite the visitors’ strong run and carry, the Bears’ failed to give in and managed to bring the margin to under a goal twice in the final quarter.
However, late goals to Richard Bamblett and Jai Burns proved to be enough as the Stars’ stormed home to a crucial 14-point victory.
The Stars’ have a big test when they return home to battle second-placed Diamond Creek in Round 17. It doesn’t get much easier for Thomastown who travels to Shelley Reserve to take on ladder-leader North Heidelberg.
Final score: Thomastown 12.14 (86) def by Fitzroy Stars 13.22 (100)