Crusaders Send Barbarians Packing.
Wolves Sharpen Their Teeth.
CCU Add To Falcons Woes.
After a week of winter weather, Mother Nature decided to hold off on the wet stuff so we could all watch/play in dry conditions once again. We must admit, we’ve been kissed on the proverbial with the playing conditions this season.
We saw a battle of the top two sides, a possible Championship match-up. A Monash side looking to redeem themselves after last weeks embarrassment and keeping themselves in that all important 4th spot. A Crusader side with an opportunity to secure a playoff spot in their first season. Two bitter rivals facing off for the first time since ‘Handshake Gate’. Would we see a repeat?
Week 13 will see more shaping of the top 4. With 2nd and 3rd spots to be determined in Melton and the all important final spot open for the taking with 3 teams vying for it.
It’s all about Division 2 Football.
Saturday 16th September – Griff Hunt Reserve, Croydon – 10:30am
Bendigo Dragons (3-6-1) 6th Place V Ballarat Falcons (4-7) 5th Place
Last time they met: Bendigo 16 Ballarat 22
Bendigo come off the bye week and now realise they are still in with a shot at 4th spot. First step will be defeating their gold fields rivals to keep that dream alive. Lose or draw and it’s over for 2017. They are also relying on results to go their way, needing Monash to lose both remaining games and who they play in the final week.
A strong running game might work against their opponents but the all important question is who will be QB? Last week I saw a quick and nimble dual threat QB cause trouble for the Falcon defense. The type of QB Bendigo just don’t seem to have.
Ballarat headed into the game against bitter rival CCU knowing they had to win and win well. The Previous week they came back from a huge half time deficit and almost pulled off a miracle. They needed to start this game exactly how they finished the last one, scoring points easily.
The Falcons were first to open the scoring early with a TD pass by QB #20 James Stephens to #18 Duncan McIntosh and converting the 2 points, the start they were after. The opponents opening drive resulted in a TD and 2pt conversion and suddenly we had a tied game 8-8 early in the 1st qtr.
Ballarat found themselves backed up against their own end zone after a failed drive and the opponent being able to move the ball easily down the field. Enter stage right WR/FS #81 Eddie Carey. With the opposition trying to cross the goal line he stepped in with a strip of the ball and a 85 yard return for the score. the 2nd big return by him for the season. The score was now 14-8 after the conversion was no good, hit hard at the 1yd line and driven backwards by CCU.
From this point on it all started to unravel. CCU added 24 unanswered points and the hopes of grabbing onto 4th spot were fading fast. During the 3rd qtr Stephens left the game for a series and they struggled to move the ball. Stephens wasn’t out for too long though returning to hit Carey on a short pass while deep in their own territory. Carey out ran everyone to score the TD going 75yds and there was a glimmer of hope for the boys who’d travelled close to 3hrs to get to the game. A final drive by Ballarat was Intercepted by CCU and the ensuing kneel down ended the game, or did it?
A penalty flag was thrown for a late hit by the Falcons, a scuffle ensued threatening to get ugly but cooler heads prevailed. The handshake went ahead this time but unfortunately more words were exchanged by both sides during and after. Players from both clubs had to be held back preventing anyone from doing anything they would regret. Absolutely no need for it and a bad look for the game of Gridiron but hey! we are all passionate about the game.
The Falcons showed flashes of brilliance but with most key players having to play both ways, I feel it’s been a long season for them and it’s starting to take it’s toll. They have slid from 2nd spot and have lost 5 in a row. This is the last regular season game for the Falcons as they have a bye in the final round, so they must win and hope that Monash lose both of their remaining games. They will be needing their arch enemy CCU to do them a favour and win this weekend.
Prediction – Dragons 8 Falcons 20
Sunday 17th September – MacPherson Park Recreation Reserve, Melton – 2:00pm
Melton Wolves (7-3) 2nd Place V Western Crusaders II (7-3) 3rd Place
Last time they met: Wolves 28 Crusaders II 6
After not playing football for 2 weeks the Wolves were itching to take on the number 1 team and show the league they had arrived. They did exactly that and more with a solid 27-14 victory over the Raiders.
In the last meeting Melton had major issues controlling the outside run so had they learned from that? We didn’t get a chance to answer that question when the Raiders fumbled the handoff on the first play from scrimmage which was recovered by the Wolves.
No doubt stopping the run of QB #7 Matthew Krul was the defensive game plan of the Raiders but how much did they know about rookie RB #17 Thomas Shutt? With RB #46 Sikaleti Mataafa out of the line up, Shutt needed to take on the majority of the workload. On the opening drive and thanks to a short field after the recovery, Shutt ran 4 times for 21yds which included a 1yd run up the middle into the end zone. The XP was good and the Wolves had shocked the Raiders going up 7-0 early.
The following drive of the Raiders answered our previous question. With the QB gaining yards on a number of outside runs it seemed that Melton were again going to struggle. The Raiders scored on a medium run but the XP was blocked making the score 7-6.
The next drive didn’t produce anything except a huge 60yd punt by WR #88 Daniel Mansueto which was downed at the 1 yd line. A couple of run plays later we saw the 1st passing attempt by the opposition ending in a juggling interception by FS #21 Markus Spiteri (10 tackles), stalling the Raiders once again. Melton tried to kick a field goal but it sailed very wide left.
The next few drives didn’t produce anymore scores. After a punt that was touched deep in their own territory went out of bounds, it gave the opposition a short field in which they scored another rushing TD. The Wolves were now behind 7-14 after the Raiders faked the XP and passed for the 2 points.
With half time approaching and under 2:30 remaining Krul took control, avoiding defenders and hitting targets downfield. The drive and qtr ended with a 12yd pass by Krul to Mansueto in the end zone. The XP was again good and the game was tied at the half 14-14.
The 2nd half was all Melton. After giving up just under 100yds rushing they did not allow another yard on the ground. Considering the Raiders were rushing for over 400yds in the past few games this was a huge statement. The constant pressure of the defense caused the Raiders to make key mistakes in the backfield. The D allowed just 1 completed pass late in the game for 12yds. Missing key defenders this performance was extra special.
Offensively Krul added to his rushing TD total on the season and TE #84 David Parkinson also ran one in for 6. They ended the game with 189yds and 3 TDs on the ground and just 41yds in the air, beating the Raiders at their own game.
The Crusaders were looking to sew up a spot in the playoffs with a win over the Barbarians. After not scoring an offensive TD against them last time they knew they had a big job ahead and a lot to play for. After a huge scoring performance the previous week they were quite confident they could win this game.
Right from the opening kickoff the Crusaders took control with a kick by #99 Luke Dyt that cannoned into a Monash lineman and was recovered by rookie of the year candidate FS #31 Christian Cinel. With QB #13 Nathan Tang finally back from a shoulder injury suffered earlier in the season, the Cru were first to put points on the board in the opening drive. The conversion was no good with the score already 6-0.
After exchanges in possession it wasn’t until the 2nd qtr that the Cru added another TD with a short run by #32 Harry Jalland. With score now 12-0 and the Barbarians struggling to get anything going, it looked like the Crusaders were going to secure a playoff spot in their first season.
The 3rd qtr didn’t have much to offer but after a failed 4th down by the Barbarians the Crusaders took full advantage with runs by veteran RB #36 Nol Arabit ending in a 10 yd run for the score. Dyt kicked the XP and the Crusaders were headed for a finals birth running out winners 19-0.
Both teams have secured spots in the playoffs and can’t fall any further than 3rd, so this is just to see who gets the bragging rights of finishing higher in the standings. I still expect to see both teams using their regular starters from the outset and maybe giving non regulars a run towards the end, depending on the score. Neither team will want to give the other an edge coming into the semi final.
The Division 1 game in the morning will have to take a back seat to this game.
Prediction – Wolves ?? Crusaders II ?
Sunday 17th September – Monash University, Clayton – 10:30am
Monash Barbarians (4-5-1) 4th Place V Casey Cardinia United (1-9) Last Place
Last time they met: Barbarians 14 CCU 8
I don’t know what’s been put into the water at Monash since the bye. The Barbarians have just not been themselves and have struggled to get any offense going. As always QB #29 Richie Truong carried the team but failed 3rd down conversions and simple mistakes have seen this team go from very competitive to lacklustre. The Cru had no trouble stopping the Barbs and limited Truong’s influence by not letting him break long runs.
They will need to change fast as they face a team that is now full of confidence after getting their first win of the year. Losing 19-0 to the Crusaders means the last 2 games it has been a score of 74-0. Something has to change and fast. A win will see 4th spot tied up, a loss will make the final game against Bendigo a do or die affair, especially if Ballarat pull out a win this week.
Playing at home CCU looked to have their best numbers on the sideline that they have had for quite sometime. After falling sick the previous week young QB #16 Reid Hiskins was given the backup duties for the game against Ballarat with QB #3 Caleb Tsalacopoulos taking the snaps for the second week in a row.
After falling behind early 14-8 CCU looked like they had finally found confidence in their game plan and scored 24 unanswered points. The first 8 points came from back to back short runs by #85 Zane Moran followed by a 1yd rushing TD by Tsalacopoulos. Rookie RB #36 Michael McKay punched it in for the 2pt conversion and at the half it was 24-14.
With 3 minutes left in the 3rd qtr CCU put the game virtually out of reach of the Falcons when McKay ran another one in and Tsalacopoulos completed a pass for the 2pts. There was another opportunity to put points on the board but a goal line stand by Ballarat prevented CCU from scoring. On their next drive Tsalacopoulos connected with WR #86 Deckster Harawa deep in Ballarat territory but the very next play Tsalacopoulos was intercepted. A play or two later CCU gave up a 75yd catch and run for the score and suddenly they weren’t looking as safe.
With 34 seconds remaining and CCU still leading by 10 points, the defense committed an offside penalty on a 4th and 1 giving Ballarat a 1st down. The next play the pass was intercepted and the game was pretty much over. A QB kneel saw the clock run out, besides the flag for the late hit. A lengthy discussion took place as to whether there had to be one more play. The referees decided to call it off which was probably a smart idea considering what was about to happen. Since Sunday video footage has emerged of some of the going’s on after the handshake. I think we haven’t heard the last of this.
After a season to forget CCU can actually have an influence on the playoffs. They have a huge chance to make it 2 in a row but with so much riding on this game I think Monash get the points, not by much. Don’t be surprised if I’m wrong.
Prediction – Barbarians 14 CCU 12
BYE – Northern Raiders
The Raiders went into the match up with Melton full of confidence they could add to the win column. A loss wouldn’t effect them much but they didn’t want to give Melton confidence of knowing they could beat them going into the finals.
It started off shaky with the first hand off fumbled, lost and falling behind 7-0 for the first time this season. It didn’t take long before they were up 14-7 after 2 TD runs by RB/WR #24 Ben Norton, adding to his impressive season tally. Playing Coach OL #73 Joshua Faure added another completion to his passing stats for 2017 on a fake XP. A last second passing TD was allowed by the defense and the score was 14-14 at half time.
At the half they had rushed for 96yds and looking to add to it and get breathing room in the second half. It wasn’t to be and they could not move the ball on the ground or through the air fumbling in the back field and only completing 2 passes for 15yds, 3 of those yards on the fake XP. They eventually fell 27-14 and now have the bye to get fresh and attack the playoffs. Whoever finishes 4th won’t be looking forward to coming up against them.
Starting RB #10 Jesse Spiropoulos was rested for this game but that had no bearing on the result as they were simply outplayed.