A total second half domination helped Barossa District turn a seven-point half-time deficit into a 52-point win in their elimination (first semi) final against South Gawler at Freeling.
Despite perfect weather conditions the skill level was below par early.
Barossa looked slightly more settled due to their ability to absorb tackles and release the ball only when it was to their advantage. The Lions appeared desperate and released the ball as soon as they felt touch.
Barossa playing coach Roger James reached deep into his bag of tricks to produce the opening goal with a dribbler from 50 metres out.
The opening term saw neither team allow the game to open up with both defences working overtime to restrict players to low percentage shots.
The second term gave South a chance to break the game apart with Lee Makris kicking two early goals but wasted opportunities saw them post 3-6 for the term while a pair of late goals from Barossa big man James Angus reduced the margin to just seven points at the main break.
Apart from their back six, Angus was the Bulldogs’ most productive player working up the ground and delivering a mismatch when pushing deep into attack.
James would have been excused for being very upset at half time but the calm Dogs’ mentor said it was just a case of going back to basics.
“I just didn’t think we played very well,” James said.
“We spoke of getting back to using our structures and focused on the mismatch Angus had against Aaron Bevis.
Whatever happened behind the closed doors definitely work as Barossa came out energised in the third quarter.
A nine-goals-to-one blitz, that included three from Josh Berrett and another pair to Angus, set the tone but it was the last goal of the period that showed Barossa’s supremacy.
Jesse Aish soared amid a pack in the goal square to mark and if that wasn’t enough the gifted wingman kicked the goal before he landed to rub it in.
“Aish’s got everything,” James said. “That’s easily the best game he’s played for us.
“He gave us an extra boost. He’s a typical wingman and loves to sneak forward.
“Berrett (six goals) is extremely valuable because he’s just so strong that he can dominate the goal square and gives us another key target.”
Berrett’s value was highlighted early as he smothered the South full back’s kick in from a point to force a contest that led to another Dogs’ score.
Importantly for Barossa their vital duo returning from injury came through unscathed.
Ross Christie was crucial rucking all day while Adam Spencer’s knee gave him no trouble although the effects of a chest infection that triggered an asthma attack saw him spend the second half on the pine.
For the Lions Heath Lawry was a standout keeping Heath Commane to just two goals.
Ron Lee got a ton of possessions in defence but was unable to have any impact as they were all behind half back.
“We made a lot of errors,” Scott Lee, South coach said.
“I felt we should have been a couple of goals up at half time.
“Mark Paget came into the game with a quad strain and the plan was that whenever he took a mark or got a free someone had to run past for a handball to take pressure off him but we were not smart enough to do that.
“Overall you could look at the season in a positive light but the truth is the season’s over for us.
“We had a bad run with injuries coming into the finals but we showed during the year that, with a full side, we could match it with anyone.”
Lee now turns his focus towards 2013 while James must prepare his boys for a crack at either Tanunda or Kapunda in the preliminary final at Tanunda in a fortnight’s time.