Round 15 - Rays Sting the Falcons to Claim Minor Premiership

on 20 August 2018
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The Dandenong Southern Stingrays have produced their tenth win in a row, this week against a spirited Geelong Falcons on Saturday afternoon, 7.13 (55) to 5.7 (37). 

The victory cements the Stingrays as minor premiers for the 2018 TAC Cup season but on the day, they played catch up football with the Geelong Falcons using the ball a lot better than their higher ranked opposition. 

What began as a low-scoring slog between two of the best pressure teams in the league was blown apart in the third term when the Stingrays kicked three unanswered goals, whilst denying the Falcons any goals -actually only allowing one-point for the term. 

It was a game very much won in defence, with ever-present defensive stalwarts Lachlan and Hayden Young, Matt Gahan, William Hamill and Matthew Cummings again playing instrumental roles in getting their side’s attacks started from the back half. 

Up forward, Bailey Williams had a lot of the footy and had the Falcons backline worried, but perhaps most impressive was second-gamer Sam Sturt, who slotted three majors, including two goals in a row to give his side back the lead with minutes to go. 

But despite the brilliant win, Senior Assistant Coach Nick Cox who was careful not to let his charges get ahead of themselves. 

“It’s probably just another step on the way,” Cox admitted post-match. “But it was still brilliant to see the competitive edge in all of the boys. 

“We were challenged in the last quarter, defending a 12 point lead against a 2-3 goal breeze advantage. With a few minutes into the game they scored, but our boys stood up as they wanted to win more.” 

Cox was also quietly pleased with his team’s stamina to run out the match, despite some unfortunate circumstances. 

“We could have easily dropped off, we were down a couple of players with some niggles, after losing Sam Fletcher for the entire game late in the first quarter. 

“But the effort we saw…it was just really great from a coaching perspective.” 

“These are the types of games you want at the pointy end of the season heading into finals…the game was played in tough conditions and we were challenged massively by a team much better than their ladder position. 

“You sit up in the coaches’ box and ask the players to trust our structure and system at the breaks- they all stuck together. We were lead superbly by our Captain once again….he grabbed the bull by the horns and carried the team with him, it was a great leaders game.” 

The slog began much probably not as many would expect with a 1v10 clash. There was plenty of bone-crunching tackles, mountains of pressure and limited scoring. 

Lachlan McDonald opened the scoring for the Stingrays, but it would be their only major for the quarter, as the Falcons dominated the scoring against the breeze that saw the Stingrays trailing (19-10) at the first break. 

The second term carried on much the same way, with both teams having their chances. The Falcons were able to capitalise quickly extending the lead on the scoreboard, while the Rays horror season in front of the big sticks continuing missing four gettable goals. 

Cody Weightman snuck out the back to nail a much-needed goal against the flow- and in what is becoming a bit of a tradition for a young Dandenong debutant, his first TAC Cup goal was met by a swarm of his teammates, triumphantly high-fiving in celebration. 

The Rays’ coaches swung some changes at half-time to try and break apart the low-scoring affair, including moving noted defender Hayden Young in the middle. 

The move paid dividends immediately, with repeat inside 50’s and the swarm of the Stingrays relentless pressure saw goals come through Zac Foot, Sam Sturt and a clever rove off the pack to Fin Bayne just before the three quarter time siren allowing the Rays to hold a 12-point lead going into the last change, with the game well and truly in the balance. 

It was the Falcons who delivered the first blow through the highly rated top end pick Sam Walsh, but the Stingrays were good enough to hold their nerve in the face of the ever-dangerous Falcons and reaped the final rewards. 

It was then that the Stingrays showed exactly what they were made of. The Rays’ defence held firm as the Falcons challenged, Bailey Williams and Bailey Schmidt tandem ruckwork was nothing short of brilliant, and it was clear that Dandenong just wanted the win more. 

Sam Sturt was a little bit of the unknow factor for the Falcons coaches only playing in his second TAC Cup game and the Stingrays coaches used that to 

their full advantage opening up the forward space and within moments he nailed an awe-inspiring goals to regain the lead, quickly followed by another moments later just before the final siren blared out to claim the win. 

It was, by and large, a terrific day for the 2018 minor premiers, however the Stingrays’ coaching panel will now wait with bated breath on the prognoses for Sam Fletcher after a copping an injury during the hard-fought victory. With a little luck, he should return to the squad in time for their first final in a few weeks’ time. 

 

The Rays will take on the Sandringham Dragons this Saturday this Saturday at 10.30am, played at Trevor Barker Reserve, Sandringham for the final home and away game.