Raiders pillage and plunder Crusaders.
Barbarians and Dragons in nail biting draw.
CCU give Wolves a fright.
Everything went according to plan in the inner city match-up at Royal Park between the Northern Raiders and Western Crusaders. Someone should have told the Monash Barbarians and Bendigo Dragons. The Melton Wolves should have been told as well when they took on Casey Cardinia United.
It was a QBs nightmare weather wise. There were some long passes that were not blown into the adjoining Suburbs. At least the rain stayed away and the sun said hello.
The 2nd half of the year gets underway.
Saturday 5th August – The Cove: Corio Community Reserve, Corio – 10:30am
Ballarat Falcons (4-2) 2nd place V Melton Wolves (4-2) 3rd place
Last time they met: Falcons 13 Wolves 12
The Falcons are coming off the bye to go toe to toe with their arch rival Wolves for the second time in season 2017. After a big confidence building win the week before in Bendigo, can they tame the opposition? A lot has changed since week 1.
QB #20 James Stephens is the key to a Ballarat win. The MVP candidate will be looking to his weapons WRs #13 Mark Hocking and #81 Eddie Carey. HB #89 Jonothan Lindsay can break the game open for the Falcons on both sides of the ball. The Ballarat LBs and D Line headed by DL #69 Dave Parker will need a solid game to stop the oppositions running game.
As I said in last weeks preview, SHOULD win didn’t mean WILL win. It’s safe to say the Wolves just used their get out of jail free card in last weeks 24 – 20 win over CCU. It was almost like they underestimated their winless opponent. That changed in just over 1 minute of the contest after a blocked punt was recovered in the end zone by CCU. The 2pt conversion was no good and the Wolves were already on the back foot. Order was restored somewhat later in the quarter when MVP candidate QB #7 Matthew Krul hit WR #24 Sharleam Baker for a short TD to level the score at 6 points each. A TD was scored by the Defense next with a 29 yard fumble return by LB #40 Lex Anaua and the Wolves looked as if they were back on track.
Midway through the 2nd qtr the Secondary was beaten deep more than once and CCU were able to score on a 5yd pass, the conversion was successful and the score was now 14-12 in favour of the away side. Up to this stage the Offense could not move the ball on the ground or the air. The run up the middle was taken away by possibly the biggest and quickest D Line in the competition, making it hard for Krul to even get going. After being well held for most of the 1st half, Krul managed to lead a late drive and run one in for 8yds and the XP was blocked. Once again the Secondary couldn’t contain the WRs and a 35yd pass for the score right before the half made it 20-18 in favour of CCU and an upset was brewing.
After a half time rev up by the coaches the 3rd qtr remained scoreless. The Defense tightened up, stopping the long to medium passes and putting pressure on the QB. Defending the run was not an issue for Melton as it’s been a key feature this year. They kept CCU to under 50yds rushing for the game. Krul scored his 2nd rushing TD from 1 yd out and things were beginning to flow on Offense. Baker made 2 key receptions to keep the chains moving. The Defense held CCU and the Offense was able to run out the clock, although Krul almost scored his 3rd in the final seconds but fell half a yard short. He managed to finish the day with 107yds rushing from 16 attempts which made up for the less than impressive passing game.
This is going to be a good tough game and rightfully takes ‘Game of the week’ honours.
Prediction – Falcons ?? Wolves ??
Sunday 6th August -DR Atkinson Reserve, Reservoir – 10:30am
Casey Cardinia United (0-6) Last place V Western Crusaders II (3-3) 5th place
Last time they met: CCU 8 Crusaders II 24
CCU almost pulled off the biggest upset of the season so far. Unfortunately they couldn’t add to their 20 points at half time. The star of the day was young QB #16 Reid Hiskins who looked like a seasoned pro avoiding sacks and making big throws downfield in windy conditions. At half time Hiskins was 7 for 13 and 82yds. Receivers were getting open but the weakness was the run game gaining less than 50yds for 4 qtrs. The Defense was relentless all day but obviously tired in the 2nd half from the constant running of their opponent. The players were enjoying the game which was evident at half time from all the laughter on the sideline. The laughter quickly faded when they realised they had a chance to win. The 2nd half was a different story for Hiskins completing just 1 of 9.
The Western Crusaders suffered their 3rd loss in a row at the hands of the top team Raiders. The Crusaders could not stop the running game of their opponent allowing 280yds rushing. With numbers like that and 7 turnovers you don’t allow yourself to be in the contest. It’s not all doom and gloom for the Crusaders, players are getting reps that they would not have received in the Division 1 side. It’s all for the future of the Western Crusaders and it’s good to have new players in the league.
You can’t help go past CCU on form in this battle. The men in green will get the W and move a step closer to getting off the bottom of the standings.
Prediction – CCU 14 Crusaders II 12
Sunday 6th August -DR Atkinson Reserve, Argyle Street Reservoir
Northern Raiders (5-1) 1st place V Bendigo Dragons (1-4-1) 6th place
Last time they met: Raiders 18 Dragons 0
A week off, time to rest and recoup to get ready for the 2nd half of the year. Get ready they have with a 20-6 win over the Crusaders. Although the score line wasn’t all that dominant with the 4 fumble recoveries on top of the 3 Interceptions with over 400yds of total Offense, statistically it was a complete domination. Head Coach Joshua Faure still believes they have a lot to work on, so if they keep improving they will almost become unbeatable.
After having 2 weeks off, MVP candidate WR #24 Ben Norton didn’t miss a beat recording 3 more TD’s and 153yds of Offense. RB #10 Jesse Spiropoulos continues to get better after a knee injury and the coaches brother, WR #80 Nicholas Faure leads the team in receiving yards and receptions. He added a further 60yds to his total on the weekend. Defensively LB #47 Alex McDonald had 10 tackles and NT/OL #56 Kane Taylor had a day out recording 4 tackles for loss and opening up running lanes for the RB’s, as well as protecting young QB #5 Jack Pattison’s behind.
Dragons Dragons Dragons, what can I say? I suppose a draw is better than another unexpected loss am I right? In the beginning, it looked like the Dragons were going to be blown off the park, not just by the blustery wind but when the Barbarians put the first 12 points on the board in a quarter and a half. If it wasn’t for a number of dropped passes by the opposition it may well have gotten out of control.
The fans got their way with the return of controversial QB #33 Thomas Prince. His Power Rankings apology video was viewed over 1000 times during the week. Clearly no one had anything better to do. Early on it looked like it was a bad move as he threw a number of knuckle balls in the windy conditions. It included a pass that was intercepted and returned to the 1yd line, it led to a rushing TD but the 2pt was no good. The score at the end of the 1st was 6-0.
The 2nd qtr wasn’t much better for Bendigo allowing a 35yd run for a score. Luckily the 2pt conversion was dropped in the end zone. The Dragons finally got onto the score board after a wild snap was fumbled by the Barbs and a Safety was scored. They had a chance of their own to score a TD when it was 4th down and only 12yds out. They were stopped and the ball was turned over on downs. What’s better than scoring a Safety? Correct, scoring 2 Safeties in one quarter. This came after a fumbled Punt went into the end zone. The score at the half was 12-4
The Dragons changed it up a little after the half time break by placing big guys in the backfield, starting with #53 Jeremy Aquino in at RB. The 3rd qtr became a fumble fest by both teams and Prince began to throw the ball with precision and style. He completed a pass to WR #15 Nicholas O’Connor for a 26yd TD and followed up with a 2pt conversion run by himself. Suddenly the score was even at 12-12.
There were a few injuries in the 2nd half for the Dragons which included Aquino who was going well. It looked like he may have been knocked out. He was replaced by a player of similar size in #55 Thomas Laidlaw who was the key on a 4th and 5 play that ran up the middle for a 1st Down. That play kept the Dragons drive alive and led to a 2nd and Goal pass by Prince to WR #26 Josh Szitovscky for the score. The pass was dropped for the 2pts in the end zone by RB #11 Harrison Luke. Now the Dragons found themselves in a position they have been in before, in front with not much time left.
After allowing the Barbarians QB a 40yd run up the middle, the opposition scored again with no conversion. Now a draw was looking very likely with about 6 minutes left in the game. Whoever was able to hold onto the ball was going to win. With 1 minute left and trying the stop the barbs from getting into scoring range, the Dragons Defense intercepted a pass.
There was a change at QB for Bendigo with Luke replacing Prince which didn’t work out how they would have liked with Luke throwing a INT with just 23 seconds left. A pass into the end zone by the Barbarians was dropped. With just 3 seconds left on the clock LB #44 Beau Hedley batted down the pass and the game ended in a tie 18-18.
The Dragons did play better and looked to have found some form after that gutsy comeback. Key injuries might be an issue and if they were up against someone other than the League leaders, I’d say they would have a chance. Sorry Bendigo, you get another digit in the loss category this week.
Prediction – Raiders 24 Dragons 8
BYE – Barbarians
The Barbs found themselves out in Melton again but as the home side this time. I was able to get up close and personal with them while I was working the chains. It also gave me a chance to watch the smallest QB in Div 2 strut his stuff. Despite the windy conditions #29 Richie Truong was flawless on the ground and when airing it out. If it wasn’t for dropped balls by his receivers he would have had big numbers on the day. Oh and his boots aren’t gold, they have a pinkish tinge to them.
After a 1yd run for a TD and no conversion it was in the 2nd qtr that the Barbs looked dangerous and headed for an easy victory. After missing most of the 1st qtr RB #42 Montell Wickremasinghe scored on big 35yd run, breaking tackles and eluding defenders making it 12-0. It was a fumbled snap by Truong that led to the oppositions first points, a Safety, then things got a bit shaky. They lost Wickremasinghe for the rest of the game to what looked like a calf injury putting the running duties firmly on the shoulders of Truong and RB #16 Jack Hulley. Regular Punter #4 Damien Tse is out for the year, his replacement fumbled a Punt that resulted in another Safety to Bendigo and suddenly it was only an 8 point game.
Fumbles were occurring far too often now and the frustration on the sideline was building. Truong was able to keep his cool after a snap sailed over his head. He picked it up, steadied and threw to WR #81 Michael Tranquille for a 1st down. Unfortunately the drive led to yet another fumble that was turned over and the Dragons took advantage with another score and 2pt conversion. The game was now tied.
Injuries began to mount up for the Barbarians which included a dislocated Elbow to DL #90 Al Binding which hurt their run defense. After allowing a TD pass they were now behind 18-12 and staring down the barrel of a loss. The biggest play of the game came from Truong who was able to run up the middle of the field for a 40yd gain. This led to a 16yd run for a TD by Hulley. We had a tied game again 18-18.
The run Defense stood up, stopping everything the Dragons threw at them and Truong was proving a handful for the opponent. It was the 2nd INT by Conquo that gave the Barbs a chance to win the game with just 23 seconds left. WR #35 San Naidoo had the opportunity to cover himself in glory when Truong hit him on the numbers in the end zone, he dropped it. Truong managed to run for another 1st down, with just 3 seconds left his pass was knocked down and the game was over. We had our first draw for the year.