The Ararat Rats reserves team has fallen to Horsham by 41 points in a sudden-death semi-final at Alexandra Oval on Sunday.
A scoreless first quarter for the Rats did not help, with the Demons gaining the early ascendency on the scoreboard.
Horsham continued to create chances and went into the quarter-time break with a 21-point lead.
Ararat was able to respond in the second term and dominated play, with the Demons unable to match the Rats’ output on the scoreboard.
Horsham could only manage two goals for the quarter while the Rats scored four goals straight to narrow the margin to 11 points at the main break.
Ararat was unable to continue the momentum at the start of the second half, as the Demons regained control with Horsham the only team to score in the quarter to extend the margin back out to 31 points with a quarter to play.
The Demons continued scoring in the final quarter to put the match beyond Ararat’s reach to progress through to the preliminary final.
The Rats finished the match with 1.4 in the final term to go down 5.4.34 to 11.9.75.
Joey Groves was the Rats’ only multiple goal kicker in the match while Harry Ganley, Chris Jerram and Ryley Hamilton were named Ararat’s best players in the semi-final loss.
Rats coach Jake Strafehl said the first quarter cost the team in the end.
“There was a bit of a breeze but the first quarter we just did not really hit our targets,” he said.
“At quarter-time, I just let them know we definitely had enough of the ball, just had to improve our skills and they did that and it got us back into the game.”
With the Rats needing more than five goals in the final quarter to win, Strafehl said he still had belief the team could win.
“I thought we still had a chance to win it. We kicked the first goal in the first minute of the last quarter, which is what we had to do,” he said.
“They definitely used the ball better than us and it showed at the end.
“Losing Mick Fratin and Shane Fisher for the game did leave us a bit short up in the forward line which forced us to move Joey Groves out of the ruck and down to the scoring end after quarter-time.”
Despite the loss, Strafehl said the year was successful.
“The reserves team has not played in finals for around 10 years. My goal was to win more games than we lose,” he said.
“The loss this week was disappointing given we had a team I think could do damage, but hopefully we can all stick together and go again next year.”