Elimination Final Match Report - Stingrays come from the clouds to snatch victory against Ranges

on 21 September 2017
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Story written By Nick Creely, Dandenong Journal 

On famous Victoria Park, a ground that is iconic in the landscape of Australian rules football, the Dandenong Stingrays pulled off a comeback for the ages on Saturday afternoon to advance through to a preliminary final next week. 

Against arch rivals Eastern Ranges, the ‘Rays came from the clouds to clinch a famous 13-point victory after being down by as much as 51-points early in the third quarter. 

In a truly forgettable first half, in which the ‘Rays were made to look second rate, the Ranges punished their highly-fancied opponents with potency in attack, destroying them on the outside to almost put the contest to bed. 

Star midfielder Hunter Clark didn’t mince words when describing his side’s first half, but said in the rooms during the long break there was a steely resolve about the group. 

“Heading into half time we were a bit down because we knew we were playing some pretty weak footy and not playing for each other, but the coaches and the players were full of encouragement and belief for one another,” he said. 

The comeback show began with the brilliance of Luke Davies-Uniacke, who roved a contest 35 out from goal, before steadying to kick a team-lifting goal. 

Davies-Uniacke – combined with Clark and Mitch Cotter in the guts lifted their rating, and Bailey Williams in the ruck started to win some crucial contests against Sam Hayes as the game shifted in momentum. 

Despite dominating the territorial battle in the third term – kicking five goals to just one – the ‘Rays still needed to chase down a 23-point deficit in the final quarter. 

Davies-Uniacke once again got the ball rolling in the opening minute of the final term, chopping off a scrambled kick out of defence to set up a clever soccer goal from Jai Nanscawen in the square, and suddenly the margin was slashed to just 17-points. 

A relatively simple miss to Ranges youngster Jamieson Rossiter directly in front, only 15 seconds later, opened the door once again, and the ‘Rays made them pay with another Nanscawen snap only five minutes later as a result of some fanatical forward line pressure. 

The ‘Rays didn’t stop there, with Jamie Plumridge eventually putting his side in front after some sublime evasion work from Davies-Uniacke in the pocket to set the goal up. 

And with powerful forward Riley D’Arcy (three goals) – who turned heads the most with a brilliant second half in the forward line – looking ominous in attack and with the midfield well and truly on top of the game, the ‘Rays kicked another two goals to ice an extraordinary victory that will go down in folklore at Shepley Oval. 

Clark – who was once again outstanding through the midfield – said the turnaround came down to the simple things in what was a huge momentum builder coming into the prelim. 

“Not too much changed structurally (but) a few players were moved around but we just knew we needed to play as a team more and keep to our structure to give ourselves a chance going into the last,” he said. 

“It’s huge for our confidence because we rated Eastern as one of the top teams all year and to come back from 50 odd points just gives us belief against anyone.” 

With the game on line, the last half of stars such as Davies-Uniacke and Darcy were inspirational – Clark certainly agrees. 

“Lukey was huge all day and just kept playing for his team mates and showed everyone why he is one of the best players in the country with his dominant game today. 

“Darc was also huge using his physical pressure and being a real presence and leader in the forward line for the younger boys down there and got his reward that he deserved. 

“They were both awesome for us.” 

The Stingrays were also well served by Oscar Clavarino, Josh Bateman and over-age pair Bailey Morrish and Mason De Wit. 

 

This week they take on the Geelong Falcons at Simonds Stadium on Sunday at 11.45am fighting for a spot in the 2017 TAC Cup Grand Final.