THEIR fifth finals meeting in three years produced another instant classic with South Fremantle only managing to beat Claremont by a solitary point in the qualifying final thanks to a missed Tigers shot after the siren.
It is developing into the most remarkable of recent rivalries in the WAFL and after meeting twice in each of the past two finals series including an all-time classic Grand Final last year, Saturday qualifying final won't be soon forgotten either.
It's quite the quirk that like the previous four finals clashes, it was also at Fremantle Community Bank Oval and both sides had almost a full half of dominance each before the result was decided after the siren.
Claremont kicked the first two goals of the contest and six to two in the first half before then leading by five goals early in the third term with Timm House kicking his second on a dramatic afternoon for the young big man.
The Bulldogs then kicked up a gear, though, and responded with seven goals to two the rest of the way to nab the lead through a right-foot snap from the pocket after a boundary throw-in by Brandon Donaldson.
Claremont wasn’t done and co-captain Jared Hardisty earned a free-kick only around 30m from goal on a 45-degree angle just before the siren sounded with the Tigers two points behind.
He tried to compose himself but ultimately his shot went across the goal and went through for a behind to his right and South Fremantle prevailed again 9.11 (65) to 9.10 (64).
The Bulldogs have now won four of those five finals meetings recently with Claremont and seven of the last nine clashes overall against the Tigers to move into next Saturday's second semi-final against Subiaco at Leederville Oval.
Claremont earned a second chance and will now host either West Perth or Swan Districts in next week's first semi-final.
Jacob Dragovich finished the game with 23 possessions for South Fremantle while Haiden Schloithe shook off a quiet first half to be instrumental in the fightback with 22 disposals, six inside 50s, five tackles and a goal.
Tom Blechynden racked up another 20 disposals to go with eight tackles while Nick Suban finished with 19 touches as did Jason Maskos in a fascinating defensive battle with Bailey Rogers.
It was a tough, physical and intense affair the whole way through with scoring tough to come by as a result. Claremont laid 85 tackles for the game and South Fremantle 84 while the defences of both teams stood tall.
Maskos had a good battle with Rogers while also for South Fremantle, Noah Strom kept Jack Buller goalless, Blayne Wilson had a good duel with Timm House, Chad Pearson got the better of Alex Manuel.
Claremont's back-line was terrific as well led by Dylan Smallwood keeping Mason Shaw to four kicks and one behind. Anthony Davis shut down Blake Schlensog before he moved into defence as Tom Baldwin did well on Cody Ninyette.
It was South Fremantle's small forwards that proved match-winning, though, with Brandon Donaldson and the returning Matthew Parker kicking two goals each with Jesse Motlop and Cody Ninyette kicking crucial goals.
Rogers spent most of the game forward for Claremont and everything he did was clean and impressive, but he just had the 10 kicks, six marks and two goals.
House also kicked two goals for Claremont but was also reported in the opening minutes for a bit hit on South Fremantle defender Zac Dent that ended his afternoon.
Jye Bolton racked up another 30 possessions for the Tigers while Jared Hardisty was all but best on the ground with 26 possessions and 16 tackles despite what happened after the siren.
Kane Mitchell also had 19 possessions and five tackles while Oliver Eastland had the better of the ruck battle with Hamish Free with 17 touches and 44 hit outs with Jimmy Miller the most effective Bulldogs player in the ruck.
It was a heated and intense match right from the outside, which was no surprise given the rivalry and that went up a notch when Zac Dent's day was ended thanks to a collision with Timm House.
It took 21 minutes for the game's first goal to eventuate and that came courtesy of Claremont with a brilliant set shot kick from near 50 deep in the pocket from the in-form Bailey Rogers.
Declan Mountford quickly added another second for South Fremantle before Jimmy Miller got South Fremantle on the board just before quarter-time.
Claremont delivered some superb football throughout the second quarter to assert their authority and to appear heading right for a second semi-final.
The Tigers were dominating in the middle, making South Fremantle's pressure look second rate and by moving the ball directly with good and skill, they quite honestly looked unstoppable and a team gearing up for a premiership assault.
Goals to Alex Manuel, Callan England, Max Spyvee and House blew the lead out to 28 points with South Fremantle only getting back it back to 24 with a goal to Brandon Donaldson after a Claremont defensive error.
Claremont then extended its lead to 30 points to start the second half with an early goal to House before South Fremantle was able to turn the tide.
It was relatively simply, the Bulldogs upped their pressure and suddenly the Tigers weren’t as clean with their ball movement and South Fremantle were a lot more attacking and aggressive with ball in hand, driving the ball forward any way possible.
By getting the ball forward quickly, the small forwards took advantage with a couple of goals in the quarter to Matthew Parker on return from Richmond. Cody Ninyette ran into an open goal as well before teenager Jesse Motlop goaled from just inside-50.
Another goal from Tom Blechynden along with another two behinds brought the quarter to an end with South Fremantle just four points behind heading into the final term.
Claremont was able to steady 12 minutes into the final term with the goal from Isaac Barton desperately needed to help push their lead after good work from Oliver Eastland to allow him to run into the open goal.
But Haiden Schloithe brought the Bulldogs back within a point when he kicked truly and eventually it was Donaldson making the crowd roar with a goal of epic proportion – booting the ball over his head after reclaiming possession from a spoiled kick to send it through the big sticks.
Claremont had one last chance but Jared Hardisty missed after the siren for the Tigers to again leave the port desperately heartbroken.
After joining Richmond through the AFL Mid-Season Rookie Draft for his second crack at the big time, Matthew Parker was allowed to return to play finals with South Fremantle ahead of signing a multi-year deal with the Tigers. He only got out of quarantine on Friday night, but returned for the Bulldogs and was instrumental in the second half fightback with two goals to go with 13 disposals and six ferocious tackles.
LOST CHANCE OF REDEMPTION
Jared Hardisty held the fate of his team in the final quarter, responsible for a free kick after the siren that would make or break the game. Sadly, the ball floated just right of the goal post, leaving his team down by a single point. It was a cruel result because he was likely best afield with 26 possessions and 16 tackles.
The day began at Fremantle Community Bank Oval with a reserves qualifying final with Perth overrunning Swan Districts with five goals to one in the last term to win 9.11 (65) to 8.8 (56).
Jack Richardson and Darby McCarthy kicked two goals each for the Demons with Corey Yeo racking up 25 disposals, Conor McPartland 23, Matthew Rogers 23 and Brodie Gray 22.
Jack Cox kicked two goals for Swan Districts while Denzel More finished with 24 possessions, Jack O'Sullivan 19, Dylan Ralph 17, Callum Garcia 16 and Jamison Ugle 16.
Perth now takes on Claremont in the second semi-final while Swan Districts will face either Subiaco or West Perth in the first semi.
The colts qualifying final saw Claremont assert its authority with an impressive 13.9 (87) to 6.10 (46) victory against East Perth at Fremantle Community Bank Oval.
Jacob Van Rooyen and Peter Coles kicked three goals for Claremont, and Jahmal Stretch and Luke Brown two. Angus Sheldrick also had 24 touches, Talon Delacey 19, Campbell Rogers 18 and Athur Jones 17.
Thomas Graham kicked three goals for East Perth with Jayden Peak gathering 18 possessions, Kalani Brooks 16, Kade Dittmar 15 and Luke Lombardi 15.
Claremont now moves into a second semi-final against Swan Districts while East Perth will face either East Fremantle or West Perth in the first semi-final.
OPTUS WAFL FINALS SERIES – QUALIFYING FINAL
SOUTH FREMANTLE 1.3 2.6 7.8 9.11 (65)
CLAREMONT 2.2 6.6 8.6 9.10 (64)
SOUTH FREMANTLE: Goals – Donaldson, Parker 2; Schloithe, Blechynden, Ninyette, Miller, Motlop.
Best – Schloithe, Blechynden, Dragovich, N Strom, Miller, Suban, Kelly, Maskos.
CLAREMONT: Goals – Rogers, House 2; Mountford, England, Spyvee, Manuel, Barton.
Best – J Hardisty, Bolton, Mitchell, Smallwood, Rogers, Eastland, Lewsey.