Falcons Struggle To Fly With Mud On Wings.
Crusaders Close Dragons Lair.
Wolves Take Bite Out Of Barbarians.
I usually give a run down of what happened last weekend and a quick preview of the coming week. With the BYE weekend for the College Football in Sydney, there will be no preview but I’ve done my best to give you a review of the weekend just gone.
With just 3 games for each team remaining in the DIV 2 season (4 games for Cru, Barbs and Falcons due to BYES). I thought now was as good a time as any to ask who will be playing off in the Championship game come Saturday, October 14th?
With CCU and now Bendigo (Mathematically can still make it) barring a miracle, being eliminated from the playoff race how will 2nd to 4th pan out?
The Northern Raiders have all but sewn up top spot sitting 2 games clear. A loss to the Wolves in 3 weeks time would make it very interesting, however. Melton can fall from 2nd if they don’t win out or at least beat the Crusaders and CCU if they lose to the Raiders.
The Crusaders and Barbarians are still vulnerable in 3rd and 4th positions. Any slip up can see them fall out of the four. That is good news for Ballarat who are in a form slump losing the last 3 games.
Northern Raiders 21 (8-1) def Ballarat Falcons 0 (4-5)
At the newly renovated field of the Croydon Rangers, a little bit of rain surely wouldn’t have had too much of an effect on this new turf right? Um wrong apparently. This would be the first game this season played in muddy conditions but after last year this wasn’t much of an issue.
After having an extra week off due to the forfeit the previous week, the Raiders were itching to get back onto the field and put space between themselves and the rest of the competition. Head Coach Joshua Faure found himself suited up for the second game in a row due to injuries on the offensive line. His experience added more talent to an already dominant run game as it seems QB #5 Jack Pattison hasn’t had to throw a single ball in weeks.
With just 5 lineman in total and half the starting defense, they could have put the Que in the rack for this game but that wouldn’t be the Raider way. Ground and pound was the order of the day with Outback Rep RB #Jesse Spiropoulos rushing for over 200yds and 3 TD’s. Spiropoulos is emerging as an MVP candidate for the Raiders. His partner in crime WR/RB #24 Ben Norton was not available this game so LB/RB #7 Victor Utumapu and RB #23 Daniel Strangis teamed up and combined for 186yds on the ground.
Defensively they were dominant even with a half strength line up and Lineman playing on both sides of the ball. They did not allow the Falcons any easy yards and held them scoreless for the entire game, reconfirming that they are the team to beat for the Championship.
The Falcons came into this game in a form slump having lost 2 games in a row. Again they found themselves undermanned but this wasn’t going to deter them from at least being competitive against the league leading Raiders.
The wet and muddy conditions didn’t help the Falcons as their strength this year has been the passing game. QB #20 James Stephens has had a stellar season thanks to his receiving triplets and RB #21 Peter McKay has handled the entire workload at running back. Unfortunately, this wasn’t going to be their day.
Despite an outstanding performance by the entire offensive line not allowing Stephens to be sacked, WR #13 Mark Hocking catching and defending like a man possessed and WR/FS #81 Eddie Carey making big plays, they could not get any kind of score on the board and slumped to their 3rd loss in a row. They now find themselves sitting 5th on the table.
Western Crusaders II 14 (5-3) def Bendigo Dragons 8 (2-6-1)
My prediction in this game was for the Dragons to continue the winning streak of 1 in a row but it seems every time I gain confidence that they might actually be on the improve, I’m left bitterly disappointed and wondering why I allowed myself to be tricked again. That’s it Bendigo Dragons…. I’m calling your season DONE!!!.
After taking a 8-0 lead after a TD run on 4th down by RB/QB #11 Harrison Luke it was all downhill for our friends from Bendigo. They went into half time with the same scoreline and some hope that win 3 for the season wasn’t too far away. Unfortunately, this wasn’t going to be the case with a costly turnover to start the second half resulted in a Crusader TD and 2pt conversion after getting great field position.
The very next Crusader drive after the stalled Dragons drives resulted in another TD for the Cru. Suddenly it was 14-8 in favour of the Crusaders and the season was starting to slip away. The Dragons had an opportunity to tie the game in the dying minutes but came up short in their efforts.
The Crusaders, after starting the season strongly have been a little hit and miss but they found a way to grind out a come from behind victory. More game time is given to rookies and more learning for the rest of the team can only be good for the future of their Div 2 side. A win was just the icing on the cake.
Melton Wolves 19 (6-3) def Monash Barbarians 14 (4-3-1)
The Wolves were upset with themselves after performing poorly against Bendigo last week. This was a must win the game to maintain 2nd spot and stay in touch with the Raiders. A loss here would see them fall back into the quagmire of teams fighting for 3rd and 4th spots. They found themselves at home defending the den for the 3rd time this season.
We saw the return of QB #7 Matthew Krul in this game. Despite a broken throwing hand, he wasn’t sitting out the first half of this important match-up against the improved Barbarians.
The Barbarians came into the game with one thing in mind, “STOP KRUL”. This allowed rookie RB #17 Thomas Shutt to tear yards up the middle on the first drive by the Wolves. After 5 rushes of 35 yards by Shutt and 6 minutes burnt off the clock, Krul ran in a TD from 1yd out. The XP was good and Melton had an early 7-0 lead.
The great start was very short lived with the ensuing kickoff taken in the end zone 1yd deep and returned 91yds (90yd field) by the Barbarians RB #Montell Wickremasinghe. The 2pt conversion was no good and the score was now 7-6 in favour of the home side.
The next possession for the Wolves saw more of the same with Shutt gaining valuable yards up the middle again and Krul completing a couple of passes. Another 6 minutes was used and Krul ran in another TD from 20yds out. The XP was touched by a few fingers and sailed wide right. The score was now 13-6 Wolves.
Melton’s defense hadn’t even stepped foot onto the field and it was already into the 2nd qtr of this contest. The very next offensive play by the Barbarians saw Wickremasinghe run left for a gain then fumble while trying to get extra yards. DE #52 Nathan Fankhauser recovered the fumble and the Wolves offense came back out once again. With great field position, the Wolves were not able to make it 3 from 3 and turned it over on 4th down from about 12yds out.
The Barbarian offense went 4 and out on the next possession. With 3 hard runs by RB #46 Sikaleti Mataafa the Wolves tried a 30yd FG which again sailed right and was no good, the scores were still 13-6. With just over 1 minute remaining in the half the Barbs were able to move the ball downfield thanks to the legs and arm of QB #29 Richie Truong. It was a 23yd pass by Truong to a wide open WR #4 Anton Maksoutov with just 15 seconds left in the half that put the Barbs ahead after the 2pt conversion was run in.
Now, most would expect a team starting from their own 20yd line with just 15 seconds left in the half to take a knee? Right? Especially with a QB with a busted hand. Well, you’d be wrong. A huge 32yd reception by WR #80 Lachlan Vella in triple coverage then a pass interference call against the Barbs saw Krul run in his 3rd TD from 23yds out with time expiring. The XP was snapped too high and the 2pt was no good. At the half the score was 19-14 in favour of Melton. My earlier prediction of 50+ points being scored was looking good at this stage.
The second half saw both teams gain yards but had to punt the ball away changing possession. There were no scores by either teams but plenty of exciting football to watch. Truong was looking dangerous and RB #22 Johnny Chen was gaining valuable yards for the Barbarians. The Barbs managed to control Krul more and he wasn’t as damaging on the ground. They managed to Sack him twice which is more than what most teams have done.
The game came down to the Barbarians final drive. A couple of penalties given by the Wolves D saw the Barbarians just 17yds out with 28 seconds left facing a 3rd and 12. The pass by Truong to the end zone was batted away by CB #6 Luke Houston. With 24 seconds on the clock and a 4th and 12. It was now or never for Truong and his pass was just out of reach of a diving receiver. The Wolves held on for the win in what was one of the better games of the year.
Krul did all of the damage in the first half and finished the game with 60yds rushing with 3 TD’s and passing for 86yds. Although the passing yards were not huge he was 9 for 14 at 64%, by far his best passing performance for the year. Maybe someone should break his foot. Shutt was solid with 60yds from 13 carries and Mataafa 6 carries for 33yds.
Truong didn’t have a great day passing as he was 5 from 17 for 66yds but he was damaging on the ground. He wasn’t sacked at all by the Wolves defense. The defense did well to hold the Wolves scoreless in the second half.
Coming soon!!! Who will win the Division 2 MVP Award?
Enjoy the College Football in Sydney and I’ll be back next week with the Week 11 Preview.