Centrals cemented their place in the Peel Football and Netball League grand final when they snapped minor premiers Pinjarra’s seven-game win streak in a bruising affair at Sir Ross McLarty Oval on Sunday afternoon.
The two sides showed there was no love lost since their fiery round 11 run-in but it was the Blues landing the final blow as they used a stunning third term to break away for a 10.13 (73) to 13.11 (89) victory.
The visitors managed to nail five unanswered goals in the penultimate quarter, as midfielders Toby Gianatti, Lee Murray and Jacob Martinez took total control to see the side out to a 34-point lead at three quarter time.
Pinjarra came storming home in the final term – closing the gap to 15 points late in the game – but a Brett Hill major sent the guests into a frenzy as it sealed the deal.
But despite the action-packed second half it was a fiery first two quarters that had fans off their seats.
Things escalated late in the first when Tigers forward Mitch Brown was shown a yellow card for an off-the-ball hit on Bruno Faulkner, but the Blue returned the favour early in the second when an incident with Lloyd Padwick landed him with a 10-minute break.
Brown managed to find the goal in his first few minutes back on the ground, just seconds before Faulkner was sent off, which gifted Padwick a downfield free kick in the goal square which he would convert into a goal.
The Tigers looked ready to extend their lead before defender Stephen Martin was shown the first half’s third yellow card, taking Murray to the goal square to give Centrals the reply, followed by majors to Hill and Adam Gajda seeing the guests back to the lead.
Just four points separated the two at half time, which saw another scuffle break out as the sides headed into the change rooms.
But the second half belonged to the Blues, as Jarrad Smith booted his second and third goals to join Ryan Henley and Grant Dunn as scorers in the quarter.
Then Martinez conjured the goal of the day when he dribbled one in from 40 metres out on the boundary, giving his side a 34-point buffer heading into the last.
Pinjarra refused to die wondering, however, as a stellar day out from Mackenzie O’Brien resumed in the final term helping spark goals to Callan Eddy, Leroy Jetta and Padwick, trimming the lead to 15 with time to spare.
The Blues looked in trouble before Hill won a contested mark against Tiger Dean Beswick, going back to calmly slot the game-sealing goal.
Thomas Bennett was a force in the victory for Centrals, which sends them directly to their first grand final since 2014, which saw them bested by the Tigers in a one-goal classic.
Meanwhile Pinjarra now heads into a do-or-die preliminary final against Rockingham, who sent Baldivis out in straight sets.