Dragons End Season For Fallen Falcons.
Barbarians Keep Playoff Hopes Alive.
Wolves Crush Crusaders.
While the number 1 team had a week off a clear challenger was determined in a fight for 2nd Spot. The season is over for 2 clubs while the final playoff spot will be determined this coming weekend in what will be a close hard fought battle.
Saturday 23rd September – The Cove Corio Community Reserve, Corio – 10:30am
Western Crusaders II (7-4) 3rd Place vs Northern Raiders (9-2) 1st Place
Last time they met: Crusaders II 6 Raiders 20
After winning 4 straight games the Crusaders were looking to wrestle 2nd spot from the Melton Wolves. A loss would have no effect on the standings so they had nothing to lose in this one. They were full of confidence and voice on the weekend but unfortunately, they were found wanting in many areas, eventually going down 34-8.
They started pretty well against the dominant run game of the Wolves but it was short-lived in the end as they allowed 229yds on the ground. In their own run game QB #13 Nathan Tang, WR #83 Anthony Tang and RB #36 Nol Arabit did the bulk of the workload but were held to just 40yds in the opening half, which would have looked much better if an 87yd run by Nathan Tang for a TD wasn’t brought back on an offensive penalty. The majority of their yards from the run were on the outside as the inside run was taken away for the most part by the big DT’s of the Wolves. They finished with 81yds on the ground from 28 attempts and a TD but fumbled 3 times losing all of them.
The passing game was pretty much nonexistent in the 1st half with just 5yds but they managed to get a few catches for gains in the 2nd half finishing with 62yds through the air. A N.Tang pass was intercepted and returned 43yds for the score late in the 4th qtr.
Defensively Rookie FS #31 Christian Cinel was a little more quiet than usual, not having too much influence in defending the run. LB #55 Andy Taula was solid for the Cru, topping off his efforts with a 40+yd INT return late in the game. They intercepted Melton 2 times inside the red zone, preventing the score from blowing out further. Veteran LB #30 Harry Jalland was very vocal all day long.
The Raiders had the luxury of a rest last week in preparation to take on the Crusaders. Head Coach Joshua Faure said that they had “Lots to work on” after their loss to the Wolves the previous week. With a powerful running game, the Raiders will look to exploit the D Line of the Crusaders. With the pressure of possibly losing top spot with a loss here, I’m not sure if they will risk resting their starters from the start. They may rest them if they pile on enough points. I expect to see RB #10 Jesse Spiropoulous and RB/WR #24 Ben Norton start the game and add to their TD totals but may see less time as the game progresses.
Although it’s been a solid 1st season for Crusaders II, the Raiders will be playing for pride and will finish off with a win heading into the playoffs. As this game is played at the same time as the Wolves and CCU game, reports from that game may alter what happens with playing personnel.
Prediction – Crusaders II 8 Raiders 28
Saturday 23rd September – Namatjira Reserve, Clayton – 10:30am
Melton Wolves (8-3) 2nd Place vs Casey Cardinia United (2-9) Last Place
Last time they met: Wolves 24 CCU 20
The Melton Wolves had an opportunity to continue to show the League they mean business when they took on 3rd placed Western Crusaders II for the outright 2nd spot. The Wolves were confident after a solid win against the Raiders the week before and having beaten the Crusaders convincingly last time. With a finals spot guaranteed they knew they could come out and mix things up and just have some fun out there.
After a couple of early runs were stopped by the Crusaders defense, Melton got rolling on the ground and through the air. The majority of the damage was done on the ground with 229yds by 5 players. Playmaker and QB #7 Matthew Krul proved very hard to stop again with 85yds from 9 carries, adding yet another TD to his already impressive total. All 3 RBs used had a significant impact with averages of over 5.5yds a carry. #44 Jamie Spiteri (7yds per carry) #17 Thomas Shutt (5.6) and #27 (His #46 was taken by someone at his local laundromat) Sikaleti Mataafa (5.8). TE #84 David Parkinson also contributed with 27yds on 3 carries (9).
If there was one place Melton have struggled a little this season it’s in the passing game. Although the completion percentage of Krul was under 35%, we saw a more damaging display with 93yds and 3 TDs. Young WR #24 Sharleam Baker was targeted the most reeling in 4 catches for 33yds and a TD. WR #88 Daniel Mansueto added to his TDs with another one on a 7yd pass. The 3rd TD was caught by #80 Lachlan Vella for his first of the year. Krul did turn the ball over twice in the red zone which could have led to more scores.
The Defense did well once again. There was no room up the middle to run with the D Line able to stop the majority of runs. Outside containment slipped at times but DB #6 Luke Houston wasn’t letting much get passed his side. They recovered 3 fumbles and the scoring was finished off with a 43yd INT return for a TD by LB #2 Luke Sackl.
CCU didn’t really have much else to play for except pride and the chance to help shape the playoffs. They performed admirably against the 4th placed Barbarians keeping the game scoreless in the 1st half out at Monash University.
In a tough battle, they eventually fell short losing 6-8 but giving hope that this club will be back next year bigger and better.
I don’t expect Krul to take the field in this game, giving game time to his backup #10 Mathew Davies. Even with top spot up for grabs, there would be no real benefit in risking injury to Krul or any other starters.
With the main scoring threat quite possibly sitting out this game it opens up the possibility of CCU stealing a final victory for 2017. I’m going for the upset which hopefully motivates my boys to pull off victory number 9 for 2017.
Prediction – Wolves 14 CCU 16
Sunday 24th September – Monash University, Clayton – 10:30am
Monash Barbarians (5-5-1) 4th Place V Bendigo Dragons (4-6-1) 5th Place
Last time they met: Barbarians 18 Dragons 18
The Barbarians knew a loss against last-placed CCU would not help their cause to make the playoffs so they fought hard for an 8-6 win. It sure didn’t come easy in a scoreless 1st half but as usual, the running game came through within the end with a TD run by RB #42 Montell Wickremasinghe and 2pt conversion by QB #29 Richie Truong. A TD scored by CCU put the game in the balance but eventually ran out of time to steal a win.
Bendigo had a huge task ahead to beat Ballarat to keep their finals hopes alive. After scoring in the 1st qtr they allowed a score by the Falcons with little time left in the 2nd qtr. Both teams failed on a 2pt conversion and the score at the half was 6-6.
The 2nd half was all Bendigo, keeping the Falcons out of the end zone and scoring 2 TD’s of their own. They finished off the TD’s with a successful 2pt and XP conversion and restoring order.
I had incorrectly written the Dragons off a few weeks ago but they now have 2 more wins. With 1 more win, they finish 4th to leapfrog the Barbarians after already disposing of the Falcons. The Barbarians just need a win or draw to confirm their place. Dare I write off the Dragons again or can they prove me wrong by finishing off an impressive late-season run? I’m tentatively picking the Barbarians because they have more options on offense, however, the defense might be the weakness.
Easy to label this game as “Game of the week” with so much riding on it.
Prediction – Barbarians 12 Dragons 10
BYE – Ballarat Falcons.
Well after a very good start to the season the wheels seemed to have fallen off the Ballarat Train. Missing the playoffs completely after losing to the Bendigo Dragons 21-6. A win would have kept them in it but results needed to go their way as well, they didn’t and that’s that for 2017.
First year QB #20 James Stephens had a very good rookie year. Definitely one of the favorites for the ROY award. His performances were complemented by the Receiving trio of #18 Duncan McIntosh, #81 Eddie Carey and #13 Mark Hocking. The run game was mostly done by RB #21 Peter McKay but lack of depth at the position and most of the guys having to play both ways took a toll by the end.
For the future of the game, I hope they can recruit some new players in the offseason and come back as strong as they started the 2017 campaign.