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Monday, September 13, 2021 - 7:10 PM by Chris Pike

SOUTH Fremantle dug deep to deliver an impressive second half and then held their breath in a dramatic finish before beating Claremont by a point to move into a second semi-final against Subiaco.

It was familiar circumstances for South Fremantle and Claremont on Saturday afternoon with the two teams meeting for their fifth final at Fremantle Community Bank Oval in the past three years.

Those previous four matches had produced some remarkable contests and built up quite a rivalry not to mention some heated home and away season match ups along the way, including the last one that South Fremantle won by a point.

So the stage was set for another tremendous battle on Saturday and it didn’t disappoint. Claremont made the first move playing some supremely impressive football in the first half to end up with a 30-point lead having kicked the first goal of the second.

South Fremantle was already down a man after Zac Dent was cleaned up by Timm House in the opening minutes, but the Bulldogs turned the momentum around and it began with increased pressure around the ground, and being more aggressive and attacking with ball in hand.

The usual well controlled ball movement was replaced by a desire to get the ball forward quickly and as a result, livewire small forwards Matthew Parker, Jesse Motlop and Cody Ninyette combined to kick four goals in the space of seven minutes.

Eventually the Bulldogs hit the front thanks to Brandon Donaldson at the 24-minute mark of the last quarter before then having to wait for Claremont co-captain Jared Hardisty to have a shot to win the game after the siren.

He would eventually miss and South Fremantle went on to win 9.11 (65) to 9.10 (64) to make it four wins from those five finals against Claremont at Fremantle Community Bank Oval.

The Bulldogs advance to Saturday's second semi-final against Subiaco at Leederville Oval with a spot in the Grand Final on the line.

Jacob Dragovich finished the game with 23 possessions for South Fremantle while Haiden Schloithe shook off a quiet first half to be instrumental in the fightback with 22 disposals, six inside 50s, five tackles and a goal.

Tom Blechynden racked up another 20 disposals to go with eight tackles while Nick Suban finished with 19 touches as did Jason Maskos in a fascinating defensive battle with Bailey Rogers.

It was a tough, physical and intense affair the whole way through with scoring tough to come by as a result. Claremont laid 85 tackles for the game and South Fremantle 84 while the defences of both teams stood tall.

Maskos had a good battle with Rogers while also for South Fremantle, Noah Strom kept Jack Buller goalless, Blayne Wilson had a good duel with Timm House, Chad Pearson got the better of Alex Manuel.

It was South Fremantle's small forwards that proved match-winning, though, with Brandon Donaldson and the returning Matthew Parker kicking two goals each with Jesse Motlop and Cody Ninyette kicking crucial goals.

South Fremantle had the better of the opportunity in a hotly contested opening 20 minutes but it was Claremont who kicked the game's first goal through a wonderful set shot from Bailey Rogers. 

Declan Mountford added another for the Tigers a minute later before South Fremantle got on the board just before quarter-time thanks to Jimmy Miller to be only five points behind.

Claremont then really took over the game in the second quarter with the Tigers displaying some impressive looking football made up of some impressive and efficient ball movement.

The result was four goals for the Tigers to open up a 28-point advantage before the Bulldogs got one back through Brandon Donaldson just before half-time, but it took a Claremont defensive error even for that to happen.

Claremont then went 30 points up with a goal to Timm House to open the second half, but South Fremantle was gradually able to turn the tide of the game around the ground and then make up the deficit on the scoreboard.

It was Matthew Parker who offered the first sign of the fightback with South Fremantle's third goal at the seven-minute mark of the third term. He then created the contest minutes later to allow Cody Ninyette to run into an open goal.

Parker added another and then Jesse Motlop just made the distance from 50m out and suddenly South Fremantle had kicked four goals in seven minutes with the four of them all coming from the exciting Indigenous small forwards.

Tom Blechynden then brought the Bulldogs back within five points with another goal just before three quarter-time with the margin just four points heading into the fourth term.

The intensity and tension rose up a level as you would expect in the last quarter and it was Claremont who scored first when Oliver Eastland set up Isaac Barton to run into an open goal.

Haiden Schloithe brought South Fremantle back within a goal a few minutes later and then eventually it was a spectacular right-foot snap from the pocket by Donaldson that put the Bulldogs in front at the 24-minute mark.

Claremont kept the ball in their forward-line in the moments after and eventually Jared Hardisty drew a free-kick and then the siren sounded. His shot would sail across the goal for a point and South Fremantle won by a point to set themselves up to be one win from a third successive Grand Final.


SOUTH FREMANTLE        1.3    2.6    7.8    9.11 (65)
CLAREMONT            2.2    6.6    8.6    9.10 (64)

SOUTH FREMANTLE: Goals – Donaldson, Parker 2; Schloithe, Blechynden, Ninyette, Miller, Motlop.
Best – Schloithe, Blechynden, Dragovich, N Strom, Miller, Suban, Kelly, Maskos.
CLAREMONT: Goals – Rogers, House 2; Mountford, England, Spyvee, Manuel, Barton.
Best – J Hardisty, Bolton, Mitchell, Smallwood, Rogers, Eastland, Lewsey.