The Southern Mallee Giants stated their case as premiership contenders with a commanding 49-point win against Ararat in Sunday's Wimmera Football League preliminary final.
The Giants laid the foundations with a rampant second quarter, before running over an injury-struck Ararat side, 16.19 (115) to 9.12 (66).
From the outset, the game look destined to live up to its billing with a first quarter that nearly had it all.
Ararat snuck in two majors in the opening two minutes, but any Rats' celebrations were short-lived as the Giants quickly replied with one of their own.
Play was limited to one wing, where Paddy Turner was commanding the game.
In a cruel twist of fate, Turner's dominance wasn't to last, with the Rats wingman stretchered from the field midway through the quarter after he appeared to go over on his ankle in a tackle.
Both sides traded blows, as players accepted the scars and bruises that come from finals football.
Neither side gave an inch, but a late Josh Webster snap gifted the Giants a four-point lead at the end of the first quarter.
Tension started to build in the second term, as cheap shots and off-the-ball incidents drew much of the attacking flair out of the game.
It was the Giants who coped best when things turned scrappy and seemed inspired by the jeers of a large, restless group of Ararat supporters.
The Giants strung together seven majors in the second quarter, to give themselves a 35-point lead heading into the main break.
The hole on the interchange bench left by Turner's injury would be the Rats' downfall in a momentum-swinging third quarter.
The class of the Giants' engine room shone through, as they ran their opponents ragged.
The Giants kicked a couple of early goals, before steadying and throwing numbers behind the ball.
The Giants' 47-point lead was enough to inspire some Ararat supporters to hit the road early at the start of the final term.
The departing Rats fans didn't miss much, with both sides seeming to settle for the result.
The final siren brought a cruel end to Shane Fisher's tenure as Ararat coach, who announced his departure last month.
For the Giants, however, it ushered a shot at a maiden Wimmera league flag.
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