Claremont provided a perfect farewell for retiring veterans Luke Blackwell, Trinity Handley, Andrew Foster and Matt Orzel with a nail-biting win over top team East Perth.
Up by just one point with two minutes to play, Handley pinched the ball as East Perth attempted to force a behind to kick the match-winning goal.
The Tigers held on to win by seven points, 12.12 (84) to 11.11 (77), to end their season with six consecutive victories.
The Royals, who fielded their youngest team in two years and included just four West Coast players, will return to Medibank Stadium next week to host the second semi-final.
But they may be without young eagle Fraser McInnes who was reported for rough conduct for his bump in a first term marking contest that knocked out Brenden Abbott.
East Perth had their chances to win with two set shots late in the game missing from close range.
Dean Cadwallader put the Royals within touching distance of the lead when he stowed a 50m set shot as the clock ticked into time on in the last term.
Callum Sinclair then marked and missed from 30m before Jarrad Oakley-Nicholls hit the post when Claremont defender Lachlan Davey was penalised for running too far out of the goal square.
Claremont had several chances to extend their lead in the third quarter but could only manage three goals with retiree matt Orzel snapping a neat major late in the term.
Josh Smith returned the favour with a 50m bomb for the Royals while Steven Wityk showed considerable promise with his second goal of the game.
Brendan Lee led East Perth’s recovery in the second term. His class and poise brought youngsters Wityk and Jackson Slater into the match and their goals helped the Royals cut the deficit to 16 points at the main break.
It had been 41 points after the first quarter. Claremont had never lost after being that far in front while East Perth had only once before overcome a margin of that size.
Claremont started brilliantly with last gamers Handley and Foster both marking the occasion with goals from their first kicks of the match.
Mark Seaby had the first major on the board 14 seconds after the start and the Tigers played with great spirit against a team guaranteed to finish on top.
|GOALS – CLAREMONT: Bradshaw, Handley 3; Seaby, McGovern 2; Orzel, Foster. |
EAST PERTH: Slater, Wityk 2; S Payne, Gordon, J Smith, Oakley-Nicholls, Shanahan, Clutterbuck, Cadwallader.