It almost happened. It came down to the wire and it was great to watch. Ultimately the undefeated remain just that.
Photo by Barendphotos.com
All roads led to Bendigo on Saturday. It was a hot one. Easily the hottest day of the 2023 season so far. The fields looked first class as always. The Dragons sure know how to host.
Photo by Onside Kick Productions
After the first game scheduled for field 2 was a forfeit. All eyes turned to field one, for the top of the table clash between the Croydon Rangers and Western Crusaders. Both sides seemed to be missing key members from their squads.
The game opened up in usual Crusader fashion. A running game that was hard to stop, finishing off the drive with a catch by DJ Battistella falling backwards in the corner of the endzone (See main picture). The Rangers were unable to get anything moving on their first possession. After a wayward snap from the Crusaders, and a recovery by the Rangers, the score was suddenly 6-6 after a James Avia to James Fountain touchdown from 10 yards out.
Photo by Barendphotos.com
The Crusaders were next to score making it 12-6 by the half time break. With extra water breaks allowed, it was going to be a game of who was the fittest. With a Crusader 20-6 lead with under 5 minutes left in the final term, it looked like they were going to hold on for a reasonably comfortable win. Well not as comfortable as we generally witness. James Fountain managed to turn a medium gain into a Touchdown and suddenly the Rangers were back in it. A failed Onside Kick meant the Crusaders would just run out the game……but this was not the case. For reasons only the Crusader coaching staff can tell us, they decided to have their 17yo QB pass the ball, which was ultimately intercepted by the Rangers. With around 60yds to make up, the Rangers started to mount a drive towards the endzone. After getting about 10yds out from scoring, the heat started to play a role with tempers flaring and flags flying. The Rangers were pushed back, forcing James Avia to throw and hope, which was intercepted in the endzone, resulting in a Western Crusader win once again. So close, yet so far for the Rangers but there is some hope.
Game 2 on field 2 was a short one, with the Warriors forfeiting at the half against the Predators. Scores were 26-0 by that stage.
Host club the Bendigo Dragons faced off the Northern Raiders, who were coming off just their 2nd win of the season. Despite the Dragons being higher placed on the ladder, the feeling was the Raiders were the favourite to win this battle. This however was not the case with the host team pulling out a 21-6 win, sending them into 5th position on the ladder. By the sounds of that score, the new goal posts were put to work.
The final round this weekend with 3rd, 4th and 5th still up for the taking.