By ZAC MILBANK
North Adelaide will play in the 2020 Statewide Super League Grand Final after slogging its way to a 15-point win against Woodville-West Torrens in Sunday’s Second Semi Final at Adelaide Oval.
Despite losing returning defender Tanner Smith to a foot injury for the second half and Roobie Young to a heavy knock late in the game, the Roosters held on long enough to play in their second title-decider in three years.
Leading by just a goal at half-time, North produced a match-defining third quarter in which Will Combe booted two of his three valuable goals to go with his final tally of 20 disposals, three marks and five clearances in the driving rain.
Among the contenders for this year’s Powerade Breakthrough Player award, the younger Combe sibling crumbed an Eagles spoil perfectly before snapping truly on his non-preferred right foot 12 minutes into the third term.
The 23-year-old struck again when he marked a Mitch Clisby snap low to the ground just inside the 50m arc before putting North in front by 21 points entering time-on.
The Roosters’ other goal scoring threat – Kym Lebois – then put the result well under control when he produced a stunning long snap from a 45m set shot, giving Jacob Surjan’s charges a 27-point lead at the final change.
It was the former Carlton rookie’s third goal for the game after also dribbling through another along the ground during the second term before finishing with three and 14 disposals.
North was out-scored by the Eagles in the final term, with veteran Matt Goldsworthy and first-year midfielder Lachie McNeil closing the gap to 16 points 17 minutes in.
McNeil’s was a fine finish on the run after slipping through two opponents but it was soon cancelled out by unpredictable North forward Lewis Hender three minutes later.
Hender controlled the bouncing ball in front of his body, critically kept his feet before snapping along the ground on his right foot from 20m.
He celebrated hard much to the delight of the red-and-white faithful as the Roosters ensured they would earn a valuable week’s rest ahead of the Statewide Super League Grand Final on Sunday October 18.
This could be critical in terms of whether Smith and Young will be available to play in the most important game of the season, with star defender Cameron Craig already ruled out with a pectoral injury suffered in Round 14.
Smith, who had missed the past fortnight with a foot injury, limped from the field after appearing to hyper-extend his foot in the goal square just two minutes into the third term.
Young was felled when involved in a collision with Eagle James Tsitas, forcing the livewire North forward to leave the field on a stretcher ambulance during a seven-minute break in play during time-on of the fourth term.
With Craig and Smith not available in the second half, premiership forward Keenan Ramsey was switched into defence with the former Crows rookie reading the play nicely to snare several intercept marks in the back half.
Returning vice-captains Andrew Moore and Tom Schwarz did plenty of grunt work in and under amid the slippery conditions to chalk up 23 disposals each, as did Jarred Allmond against his former club.
Campbell Combe nearly laid more tackles (15) than disposals (17) gathered as he also thrived on the conditions while Mitch Harvey and Alex Barns teamed well in the ruck after Surjan opted to squeeze James Craig out of the side at selection.
After conceding the opening three goals of the game, the Eagles slowly worked their way into the contest with late goals to Jake Von Bertouch and James Rowe in the first term.
Impressive defender Rhyan Mansell was forced to leave the field after a heavy knock to the head but that didn’t stop his side from hitting the front when Nick Hayes nailed his second goal of the second term with an excellent set shot from the boundary line.
And when Rowe caught Karl Finlay holding the ball before kicking a 15m checkside set shot, the Eagles led by seven points on the back of three goals in four minutes early after the first change.
But their grip on the game slowly loosened after their only scoring shot in the third quarter was a rushed behind in the second minute.
Running defender Jacob Wehr was the Eagles’ leading disposal-winner with 23 in his first final while Jack Hayes showed off his workrate around the ground for 21 disposals, six marks, four tackles and four clearances.
Exciting AFL Draft prospect Lachie Jones was solid across half-back against opponents of differing sizes, finishing with 19 disposals while Ken Farmer Medallist James Rowe had 18 touches, four tackles, five clearances and two goals.
The Eagles will now refocus to prepare for next Sunday’s Preliminary Final against South Adelaide, who beat reigning premier Glenelg by 25 points in yesterday’s First Semi Final at Adelaide Oval.