Magpies Crusaders forward Kyren Walters bagged a brace in the 4-1 win over Magpies on Saturday night. Photo: Callum Dick – File
Magpies Crusaders forward Kyren Walters bagged a brace in the 4-1 win over Magpies on Saturday night. Photo: Callum Dick – File

Walters brace lifts MCU into grand final

MAGPIES Crusaders are through to the Men’s Premier League grand final after a convincing 4-1 win over nearest rivals Magpies at Mackay Football Park on Saturday night.

Competition leading goalscorer Kyren Walters recorded a second-half brace to put the contest to bed and send his side straight through to the decider, following earlier goals from Dylan D’Agostino and Jordy Vleugels.

Former MCU striker Michael Lyall scored Magpies’ lone goal on the hour mark, before later being sent off with just minutes left to play.

Magpies Crusaders boss Tom Ballantyne enjoyed the “good tactical battle” in the early stages of the first final, adding he was caught off guard by Magpies’ shift to a 3-5-2 in favour of their usual formation.

“Magpies came out with a plan to beat us,” he said.

“I thought it was a really good tactical battle for the first 20 minutes.”

D’Agostino’s diving header to open the scoring allowed the minor premiers an early advantage in the arm wrestle and they took a deserved 1-nil lead into halftime.

Goals to Vleugels and Walters in quick succession following the restart blew the game open.

It was fitting that Ballantyne’s key trio of seasoned heads were the ones to find the back of the net and put the team through to the grand final.

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Not evident on the scoresheet was the impact of some of the younger brigade, of who Ballantyne has watched flourish this season and again impressed on the big stage.

“The performance especially from some of the younger players in our group was very pleasing,” the coach said.

“Denzel Bobongie looked composed and confident in midfield; Jayden Bell, as a young centre back playing against Michael Lyall I thought looked comfortable; Jayden Tower our goalkeeper, they put a lot of aerial pressure on him and he stood up and dealt with that really well.

“And Kougha (Dunkerley) … did a fantastic job. Played out of position as a right back, I thought he managed that side of the field really well. It was brilliant.”

With the win comes a much-needed week off for Ballantyne’s playing group, after putting “all our eggs in one basket” to knock off the reigning champions.

“For us it’s a blessing. We played that game with six players carrying quite heavy injuries,” Ballantyne said.

“We put all our eggs in one basket and said we have to win this weekend or we’ll be dragging a bunch of injured players into next weekend.

“We know condition-wise we’re fit and our tactical understanding is there.

“It’s just a case of managing bodies … and we have a chance to do that now this week.”

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