THE epic battle between Drouin and Phillip Island came to a thrilling conclusion on Sunday.
Each year Drouin and Phillip Island go head to head in the Gippsland Soccer League grand finals and on Sunday, the Dragons celebrated winning back the cup.
It was a hard-hitting contest and tempers flared as Phillip Island went up against the minor premiership team.
Phillip Island started with a tested set-up, league-leading goal kicker Chris Barnes up front supported by
Tim Van Weysberg.
Drouin had done their homework and set up strong defence-men including Dario Medugorac on the Irish striker, ensuring his impact was kept covered for the entire game.
With the centre run stymied, Phillip Island relied on its fast wingers, including Nathan Cleeland, who had a great game, and Luciano Scarlato.
In the centre Dan Brown created opportunities as Drouin surged forward, linking up with Caleb Hotchkin who dangerously found space through the centre.
There were some cracking shots at goal in the first few minutes but the goal-keepers were looking strong – Daren Dempsey for Phillip Island, and Shannon Knegt, who had also played in the thrilling penalty shootout for the Reserves.
Hotchkin was the first to score – his height the difference from the corner kick.
Phillip Island hit back at the restart, playing an aggressive game, but it didn’t disturb Drouin’s game-plan of possession football.
At half-time, Drouin held on to the lead and the momentum.
Drouin went for the kill in the second half and scored early through a brilliant header by Arjay Trillanes, which ricocheted through Dempsey’s arms.
The game see-sawed wildly until Barnes was given a penalty shot – the ball went left, Knegt read it well, but there was too much force behind the shot – Drouin 2 v Phillip Island 1.
With still plenty of time to go, Phillip Island lifted in intensity and Nathan Cleeland was rewarded for his excellent work along the wing with a header and a deflection to draw level.
Phillip Island was looking good for a third, but some conflict at the top of the box saw Drouin with an excellent chance.
Hotchkin weighted the kick beautifully, curving around the wall and into the net – Drouin 3 v Phillip Island 2.
Phillip Island fought on valiantly, Frank Pitisano putting his body on the line to stop any further Drouin goals, but Drouin was content to count down the clock and win the grand final.
Full coverage of the Gippsland Soccer League grand final day in this weeks edition of the South Gippsland Sentinel-Times