As Billy Birmingham once said in the classic ‘12th Man’, “Harder to pick than a broken nose”. Never has that line been so true. We saw a 44 game winning streak come to an abrupt end on Saturday. NO ONE could say they saw this coming. Well maybe their opposition did.
Saturday had a full schedule of games to get through with games in Croydon and Reservoir. Let’s head to Croydon first, where the Rangers took on the Geelong Buccaneers in all 3 competitions.
The under 16’s kicked things off with another impressive performance by the Rangers. After a slow start to the year, they look like they are going to become a big part of the Vic Bowl proceedings come April 2nd. Their Offense is scoring heavily and the Defense is keeping their opponents under 20 points each week. This week was no different to last, with a comprehensive victory.
Croydon Rangers 44 Defeated Geelong Buccaneers 12
The under 19’s took the field next. The Buccaneers came into this game undefeated after easily accounting for the Royals last week. The Rangers have been improving each and every week, with RB #7 Frances Lian being the biggest reason for their domination. In what was a scoring fest, saw the Rangers defeat the Bucs in an epic shootout. Final scores were more like Basketball scores than Gridiron.
Croydon Rangers 44 Defeated Geelong Buccaneers 36
*Useless stat alert – Both Ranger sides (19’s and 16’s) have scored 84 points in the past 2 games. Both scored 40 last week and 44 this week. Mind blown!!!
The Jon Johnston Memorial Trophy was next up with the Division 1 clash. Like the previous games, there was lots of Offense to keep the crowd entertained and having another clean sweep for the home town Rangers. I still think the Ranger’s run defense is going to be their undoing, unless they can fix it.
Croydon Rangers 36 Defeated Geelong Buccaneers 28
We now head North to the suburb of Reservoir, where the Northern Raiders took on the Melton Wolves in a Division 2 clash.
A rare thing occurred, we saw our first field goal kicked for the year by the Wolves, giving them an early 3-0 lead. The lead was gone soon enough with the Raiders scoring a Touchdown. As we saw in the previous meeting between these 2 clubs, the score swapped again with the Wolves scoring a TD and conversion to give them an 11-6 lead.
In what you could say was a poor defensive performance right before half time, saw the Raiders drive the field in the last few minutes, taking the lead right at the expiration of the first half. After that the Raiders were never troubled, running out comfortable winners at home, leaving Melton the only winless team in that Division.
Northern Raiders 24 Defeated Melton Wolves 11
The undefeated Crusaders were next up against the Warriors, who were pretty much struggling so far this year. Myself, as well as probably everyone else, saw an easy victory coming the way of the Crusaders in this one. In the words or Chris Berman “That’s why they play the games!”
An uneventful first half saw the Crusaders go into the break with an 8-0 lead. Instead of falling away and the letting the Crusaders dominate them, the complete opposite happened. The defensive pressure by the Warriors was relentless, forcing Matthew Krul into bad passes which ended up in a number of interceptions at crucial stages. The master stroke was having QB James Avia playing at Defensive End, while young QB #16 Hiskins led the offense, doing just enough to control the ball. RB Luke Jackson looked to have improved game fitness, peeling off a big run or 2.
I was watching the Live Stream while I was meant to be working, but luckily not much was happening and I got to see the Warriors take the lead after a Jackson TD. Then I got to see the defense put so much pressure on Krul that he left the game with an injury. He returned to try and get the game winning TD but he was sacked. That was it!
The question now remains, was that just a hiccup in the Crusaders quest to win a 4th championship in a row? Or have the Warriors found the formula that other teams can take on to beat them? All I know is that it has made the season all that more interesting.
Western Crusaders 8 Defeated by Warriors Gridiron 12
Sunday morning arrived, I did some things before I needed to get ready to head to Parkville to film the Royals and the Predators games. At approximately 1030am, I receive a message from a Royals player saying the game isn’t at Ross Straw Field. It was now at Sydney Pargeter Reserve in Endeavour Hills. As I reside in Melton, I wasn’t going to go out there, but being the football lover I am, I set on my way across town and through too much roadworks.
I arrived on time, set up the camera and got myself ready to go. It was windy!!! So windy that my camera almost took off and I struggled to keep the thing still enough to film. Anyway, enough about me. The under 19’s game was on and the Royals had a lady playing for them. Just the 2nd girl to pull on the pads for a team this season.
Now the last meeting between these 2 was a defensive struggle. With wind playing havoc with teams heading to the northern end, I couldn’t see a lot of passing being effective. We got to half time pretty quickly with no scoring to speak of, until the Predators finally strung a drive together, ending in a rushing TD to RB #85. Unfortunately for the Royals they lost their QB to a serious knee injury before the end of the first half. This made an already short on numbers side even thinner.
A definite defensive battle that ended with just the one score.
Melbourne Uni Royals 0 Defeated by South Eastern Predators 6
The Division 1 clash was next with Royals starting QB #12 Declan Ramage. Not sure what the case was with their regular QB but Ramage is more than capable.
It was still windy but not as windy as it had been for most of the day. Both teams initially couldn’t get much going. Either punting it away or failing on 4th down. The first score on the board was in the 2nd quarter with a WR Jacob Kerin, making guys miss and diving into the endzone. The 2-point conversion was successful. Not long after, DB Jack Pattinson had a well-timed interception that was returned for the score. He could not have timed it any better than he did. As a former DB myself, it was glorious to watch.
Right before the half the Predators were in scoring position thanks, to an interception by #9, with the Royals backed up inside the 5. It was returned for a TD but called back due to a block in the back penalty on the return. QB Jesse Sporton sent a spiral pass to WR #32 Halliwell, who took an excellent catch under pressure for the TD. Half time had arrived with the scores 14-6 in favour of the hometown Royals, who were actually playing at the Predators home field. Go figure!
In a tense second half, the Royals #97 had a ball pretty much thrown straight at him, which he intercepted and returned for the huge score. The return was for about 80yards (can be seen on GVision). With the Royals up 20-6, they just needed to control the ball and not do anything stupid.
The Royals weren’t able to do much with their running game and the passing game was generally targeted at Kerin. The Predators found a weakness in the Royals defense as they ran the ball up the middle on multiple occasions, with first downs and chunks of yards easily picked up. A drive started in the 3rd was completed in the 4th with a Jesse Sporton rushing TD, closing the gap on the Royals.
The Preds were not able to capitalise on their momentum and the Royals eventually ran out winners. The Royals punter got a work out to help try and seal the win. Despite the win by the Royals, I still see issues with the offense. They need to find a way to get under 19’s WR Cooper Maher more of the ball to take the pressure off Kerin. Something also needs to spark the run game if they are going to be a threat.
The Preds drop a 3rd straight game and now sit on the bottom of the table looking for the next Win. Not sure where that is going to come from at this stage.
Melbourne Uni Royals 20 Defeated South Eastern Predators 14
All the highlights from the Royals V Predators are here at GVision
You can watch the livestream of the Raiders V Wolves and Crusaders V Warriors on the GV facebook page here https://www.facebook.com/gridironvictoria