The sudden death nature of half the games played, the desire to avoid being placed in a that situation and the desperate need to claim a spot in the Grand Final all played their part in increasing the drama and it made for good quality football throughout the day.
Major Semi Final
Sutherland Sharks were the Premiers in this age group after they claimed that tile by a margin of one point and they had not lost in their last twelve matches. Marconi Stallions finished the competition in second spot and they started the finals series on the end of a run of eighteen unbeaten matches, the last thirteen of which involved clean sheets. They were 3-2 winners in last week?s Preliminary Semi Final.
In head-to-head action during the season, the first match was a scoreless draw while the Stallions had claimed the second one with a 3-0 result.
From the outset on Saturday Marconi looked just a little sharper and hungrier for a positive result than Sutherland who had a rest last week. The Stallions early purpose and drive was rewarded in the 12th minute when Dylan Caton found the back of the net to give his team a lead that they deserved at that stage.
The Sharks were clearly rattled by that setback but they simply rolled up their sleeves and worked harder to get themselves back into the contest and while they went very close to achieving that aim, the score remained at 1-0 at the break.
There was nothing between the teams in the opening minutes of the second half but Marconi slowly but surely began to gain the upper hand and that brought them a second goal in the 42nd minute when Caton found the net once again.
At no stage did the Sharks look like a beaten side but they found it impossible to score the vital goal that would get them back into the match due to the well organised Stallions defence that seemingly hates to concede goals.
Sutherland will now play in the Preliminary Final at Gabbie Stadium on Saturday morning while Marconi have claimed the first spot in the Grand Final which will be played on Saturday week.
Minor Semi Final
Blacktown City Demons had competed the season proper in third place and they came into this match as a result of their 3-2 loss in the Preliminary Semi Final while fourth placed Manly United had won the Elimination Semi Final 2-1 in extra time.
In their head-to-head clashes, Manly had claimed the first round points with a 1-0 result while the second round match was a scoreless draw.
Blacktown had by far the better of the early exchanges but they seemed to have some difficulty in turning their glut of ball possession into goals while Manly were forced to defend the hearts out and rely on the occasional break to create their chances.
The Demons drew first blood with a goal from M. Qasimi just before the break and then Manly drew level just seven minutes into the second stanza through J. Green. Blacktown once again took control of the ball and dictated the terms for the remainder of the second half but they could not find a way to resume but they could not find a way to recapture the lead before the final whistle.
Extra time was needed and while it was to be a lot more of the same, there was no addition to the scoreline and so it as off to the dreaded penalty spot to settle the issue. It was here that Manly came to the fore, winning the shootout 3-1 after four kicks for each team.
Blacktown have been eliminated from the finals series while Manly will play Sutherland Sharks in the Preliminary Final at Gabbie Stadium on Saturday for the prize of the second place in the Grand Final.
Major Semi Final
Sutherland Sharks had won the Premiership on goal difference and they came into this match with win from their last three competition matches when they scored seventeen goals and conceded none. Marconi Stallions finished in third place and they had posted a win and a draw in their last two competition outings before they won the Preliminary Semi Final 3-0.
In head-to-head clashes, the Sharks were 2-1 winners in the first round while the Stallions had taken out the second match with a 2-0 scoreline.
There was nothing between the teams in the opening minutes as they went at each other in a fine display of attacking football that had the spectators on the very edges of their seats.
The Sharks drew first blood when Steven Ilic found the net in the 11th minute but the Stallions were far from out of it at that stage as they continued to search for the elusive goal.
Sutherland increased their margin just four minutes into the second half with a goal from Michael Neill but even that setback was not enough to take the wind out of Marconi?s sails as they redoubled their efforts to find a way back into the match.
The Sharks took the scoreline to 3-0 in the 51st minute with a goal from Giancarlo Gallifuoco but still Marconi kept on trying to claw their way back. However, it proved to be a mountain too difficult to climb and so Sutherland
Minor Semi Final
Second placed Blacktown City Demons were unbeaten in their last fourteen competition matches, thirteen of which were clean sheets, but they had gone down 3-0 in last week?s Preliminary Semi final. West Sydney Berries had finished fourth and while they had lost the two games leading into the finals they were unbeaten in their previous six matches.
Blacktown had taken all the points from their head-to-head clashes with 3-0 and 3-2 victories.
End-to-end play was the order of the day as the teams worked themselves to a standstill in search of a goal that would give them an advantage but it was not to come during the action-packed first half.
Despite several chances at both ends of the ground neither team could find the back of the net due to a combination of some wayward shooting and some fantastic work from the goalkeepers.
When extra time failed to produce a breakthrough goal, it was off to the penalty spot to find a winner. It was here that the Demons came up trumps as they won the shootout 5-4 after seven kicks from each team.
The Berries have been eliminated from the finals while the Demons will meet Marconi Stallions in the Preliminary Final at Gabbie Stadium on Saturday.
Major Semi Final
Wollongong FC were the Premiers in this age group and they came into this game on the back of an eight game winning streak during which they scored twenty-eight goals and conceded only four. Blacktown City demons had remained unbeaten in their last sixteen matches including the 2-1 result in last week?s Preliminary Semi Final.
In their head-to-head clashes the Wolves won the first game 4-0 and then the Demons took the second game points with a 2-1 result.
Wollongong started this match with all guns blazing as they went looking for an early goal and they struck gold in the seventh minute when J. Martinoski found the back of the net to give them a 1-0 lead.
Blacktown immediately rolled up their sleeves and went to work, looking for a way to get back into the game but while they did have some chances, the goal they needed did not appear before the interval.
The second stanza was action packed as the play flowed from one end of the ground to the other, ensuring that the respective goalkeepers were kept on their toes, but there was no addition to the score before the final whistle of the game.
That has allowed the Wolves to take the direct route to the Grand Final while the Demons will play in Saturday?s Preliminary Final at Gabbie Stadium.
Minor Semi Final
A.P.I.A. Leichhardt Tigers were placed third at the end of the competition and they had posted three wins and three draws from the eight games preceding their 2-1 loss in the Preliminary Semi Final. Marconi Stallions were fifth and they had four wins and two draws to show for the eight games leading into last week?s penalty shootout victory in the Elimination Semi Final.
There was nothing between the teams in the thrill-a-minute first half which produced play of the highest quality but no goals were scored despite a few heart-stopping near things.
The Tigers drew first blood in the 55th minute when D. Fiori found the target but that lead was eliminated just nine min utes later through a goal from Marconi?s Zac Yagi.
Try as they might, neither team as able to increase their tally of goals before the final whistle and so it was necessary to go into extra time to find the winner
After a gaol-less first period Marconi dug deep and they were rewarded with a goal from Daniel Petrovski four minutes after the change of ends and that was to be decisive.
It was the end of the road for the Tigers while the Stallions will now play in Saturday?s Preliminary Final when they will face Blacktown City Demons at Gabbie Stadium.
Major Semi Final
Manly United were the Premiers and they had won the three games leading into this one without conceding a goal. Marconi Stallions were placed third and they were unbeaten in their last eight matches, including their 3-0 success in the Preliminary Semi Final.
In their head-to-head clashes Marconi had taken all the points with a 0-1 win in the first game and then a 2-0 result the second time around.
After a very even opening period it was the Stallions who gained the upper hand with a first half goal that boosted their confidence and rocked the Premiers.
Marconi went on with the job in the second half when they added two more goals to their tally despite some very determined but unrewarded play from the Manly lads.
Manly will now play in the Preliminary Final on Saturday while Marconi have booked their place in the Grand Final.
Minor Semi Final
APIA Leichhardt Tigers completed the competition in second spot and they were unbeaten in the eight games leading into last week?s Preliminary Semi Final which they lost 3-0. Blacktown City Demons had finished fourth and they had won their last three competition matches before they added a 4-1 result in the Elimination Semi Final.
In the head-to-head clashes the Demons were 3-1 winners in the first game and then the second one finished at 1-1.
Blacktown started the better as they scored three times before the break through a Matt Ryan penalty and goals from Blake Armstrong and Daniel Tesoro, giving them a 3-0 advantage.
The Tigers showed that they were far from a beaten side when they reduced the deficit just four minutes after the interval through a goal from A. Kovacevic but the Demons bounced back to take the scoreline to 4-1 thanks to a strike from Keiran Paull in the 53rd minute.
Leichhardt recovered from that setback just one minute later when Kovacevic added a second goal and then he completed his hat-trick with ten minutes remaining on the referee?s watch.
Both teams had opportunities to add to their tally during the nail-biting final ten minutes but some good defending and some first class goalkeeping prevented them from doing so.
With final scoreline reading 4-3 the Demons have progressed to the Preliminary Final at Gabbie stadium on Saturday while it was the end of the road for the gallant Tigers.
Major Semi Final
Blacktown City Demons were the Premiers and they had won the five games leading into this match while third placed A.P.I.A. Leichhardt Tigers had posted one win and two draws from the five outings immediately before their 3-1 win in the Preliminary Semi Final.
The honours were even in the head-to-head clashes with Blacktown taking the first game 3-0 and then the Tigers were 2-1 winners the second time around.
There was action aplenty from the first whistle to the last as both teams showed tremendous skill, enterprise and determination as they sought a way to gain the upper hand in one of the most exciting games of the day.
Both goalkeepers were busy during the thrill-a-minute first half but after some very close near things the first half ended without a goal being scored.
The teams increased the intensity of their play in the second stanza and that added much to the already very entertaining match but it was apparent to everyone in the spectator areas that this one would be settled by a single goal.
That was to come from the boot of Blacktown?s Scott Madden as he let fly with a pile-driver from his twenty-five metre free kick that was far too good for the best efforts of the Tigers? goalkeeper.
Leichhardt gave their all to get themselves back into the game but Blacktown?s defence was equal to all the challenges set for them and so they took out the game with a 1-0 result.
The Demons have taken the direct route to the Grand Final while the Tigers will play in Saturday?s Preliminary Final at Gabbie Stadium.
Minor Semi Final
Penrith Nepean United were in second place at the end of the competition and they had won three and drawn one of their last seven games before they went down 3-1 in last week?s Preliminary Semi Final. Marconi Stallions were placed fourth and they had one win and a draw to show for the last seven games before their 3-0 victory in the Elimination Semi Final.
Penrith had taken all the points from the head-to-head clashes with a 1-0 first round win and then they won the second game 4-3.
The game started well for Penrith when Trent Barton gave them a 1-0 lead in the 8th minute but it was clear that that was never going to be enough as the end-to-end action kept everyone in the spectator areas on the edge of their seats.
Marconi deservedly squared the ledger in the 41st minute through D. Trimboli but Penrith resumed the lead ten minutes into the second half thanks to a goal from Damien Jankovic.
The ensuing play was very even with both teams having chances to change the course of the game but we had to wait until the 83rd minute for the next goal.
It came from Jankovic as he took Penrith to a 3-1 lead that was to provide the Stallions with a mountain that was far too difficult to climb despite their commendable efforts to do so.
Marconi have now bowed out of the finals series while PNU will meet A.P.I.A. Leichhardt Tigers in the Preliminary Final at Gabbie Stadium on Saturday.
-By Barry Davis