Ararat will play Horsham in next weekend’s preliminary final after defeating Horsham Saints at Dimboola on Sunday.
The contest was hard fought all day, with the lead changing hands regularly throughout the match.
The Saints dominated the opening phases, with Sam Clyne winning clearance after clearance to help his side forward to score the first two goals of the game.
After going goalless last weekend, Rats full forward Lachie Hamilton hit the scoreboard early with a good snap to get Ararat going.
The Saints were able to maintain the early ascendancy, booting three consecutive goals to end the first term 17 points ahead.
Rats coach Shane Fisher urged his side to be smarter with the ball in the second quarter and that is exactly what they did.
Early clearances helped them kick the first few goals of the second and regain the lead. Ararat dominated play until there was about seven minutes to play when the Saints were finally able to hit back.
Back-to-back goals resulted in another lead change as the quarter neared an end.
A shot from about 50 metres out after the half-time siren for Ararat helped them consolidate a dominant quarter to lead 47-43 at the main break.
The Rats picked up where they left off at the start of the third term, booting an early goal to increase their ascendancy.
The contest tightened up for much of the third quarter, with the Saints regaining the lead once more.
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Another goal to Lachie Hamilton changed the lead once more before Ryan Bates marked well in the goal square to extend the lead to 14.
The Saints bagged a crucial major in the last 30 seconds of the term to give themselves a chance heading into the penultimate quarter.
Ararat had much of the play in the opening stages of the fourth term, but could not convert on their inside 50 chances.
Both teams had plenty of chances to take control in the final term but were unable to do so.
“I thought we wasted a fair few opportunities early in the last quarter,” Shane Fisher said.
“Just our execution faltered a little with some nerves and tired legs.”
Jacob O’Beirne put the Saints ahead by two points in a term where goals were hard to come by, giving the Saints a huge opportunity.
Ararat was able to remain calm under pressure however, with Jake Robinson slotting a set shot from 45 metres out on a tough angle with about five minutes to play to get his side across the line.
The Rats finished in front 12.11 (83) to 12.4 (76).
“It was just a game of momentum and they were the ones that were able to wrestle it their way when the siren went,” Saints coach Luke Fisher said.
“A few little things probably didn’t go our way in the end. I am really proud of the boys and their efforts, they deserve to hold their heads high.
“(Sam) Clyne’s work rate was good all day and young Angus Gove was really good too. As a young kid to take a game on like that at 17 years old is really impressive.”
“We have a young group and they will only get better from here. Every bit of finals experience is good for the club going forward.”
Shane Fisher said he thought Tom Mills, and the Ganley and Mendes brothers were among his sides best. Hamilton also finished with five goals.
Ben Free will be in doubt for the preliminary final, taken to hospital after the game with “a fair bit of whiplash”.
“We have a few guys available for selection so we are in a good spot personnel wise,” Fisher said.
He said the win is a big reward for his club.
“As a club we have worked fairly hard over the course of the last few years to improve our brand in the league,” he said.