TAC Cup finals review: Week two wrap

Eastern Ranges vs. Geelong Falcons
Murray Bushrangers 9.13 (67)
Oakleigh Chargers 10.13 (73)

Murray goals: J.Schache 2, C.Oliver 2, T.McMullan, L.Smith, B.Smith, L.Tiziani, H.Payne
Oakleigh goals: T.Phillips 2, L.Walker 2, P.Kerr, D.Cuningham, C.Lane, L.Byrne-Jones, J.Ridley, H.Thompson
Murray best: L.Tiziani, C.Oliver, J.Schache, M.Waite, W.Brodie, H.Payne
Oakleigh best: L.Byrne-Jones, K.Answerth, D.Cuningham, T.Phillips, L.Walker, P.Phillips

The first semi final of the weekend was a classic. Ikon Park was bathed in sunlight, with the temperature hitting the mid 20s. The strong crowd was greeted to a great match that was eventually only separated by six points.

The scores were locked at quarter time, 16 a piece before Oakleigh were able to take a slender lead of three points at half time. Murray kicked 1.5 in the second quarter, a feat that would come back to hurt them.

Tom Phillips kicked two goals in a minute for the Chargers and it looked as if they could run out winners. Lachie Byrne-Jones showed some incredible pace running out of half back, making it hard for the Bushranger forwards to control his run and dash. However the Bushrangers hit back through Schache and McMullan to keep the the deficit to only 10 points at three quarter time.

Despite Murray kicking four goals to three in the final quarter, they were unable to make up from their early inefficiency in front of goal, losing the match by six points.

Lachlan Tiziani was the best player for Murray, setting up the play and bringing the ball out of defence.

David Cuningham had 23 disposals for Oakleigh. He has great pace and was able to break away from his opponents at the stoppages.

Bushranger midfielder Clayton Oliver was quiet in the first half, however his second half showed why he was a deserving winner of the Morrish Medal controlling the centre of the ground with plenty of tackles and clearances nearly getting his side over the line.

Oakleigh Chargers now take on North Ballarat Rebels next Saturday for a spot in the TAC Cup grand final.

Geelong Falcons 6.14 (50)
Eastern Ranges 15.14 (104)

Geelong goals: L. McCartney 2, L. Wagener, R. Mathieson, B. Blair, H. Kol.
Eastern goals: B. Hardwick 3, J. Stephenson 2, A. Brolic 2, A. Cerra, J. Gallucci, J. Collins, D. Clarke, A. Cotte, J. Cyster, B. Mitchener, J. Hannon.
Geelong best: T. Doedee, A. Witherden, L. Wagener, N. Connors, B. McNamara, H. Kershaw
Eastern best: R. Clarke, D. Clarke, J. Maibaum, J. Collins, B. Mitchener, J. Parsons

Eastern Ranges bundled the Geelong Falcons out of the finals series for the second time in three years, when the Ranges outlasted the Falcons by nine goals on Sunday.

From start to finish, the Ranges always seemed in control and while the Falcons stayed with them for a half, Eastern pulled away in the third and steamrolled its way to a preliminary final in the final term.

Ryan Clarke was sensational across four quarters, doing it all over the ground, providing run and carry out of the back half and through the middle, while Jack Maibaum earned praise for shutting key forward Charlie Curnow out of the game.

Darcy Parish and Rhys Mathieson, while they had their moments, could not exert themselves on the contest as much as they would have liked, as the Eastern defenders ran wild and used precise kicking to hit targets up forward.

Both teams had bouts of inaccuracy, but the Falcons had theirs early, while Eastern missed a few goals late.

Early on, Eastern looked deadly around goals, kicking four goals to one, to open up a 14-point quarter time lead despite having one less scoring shot.

The second quarter was reasonably tight, but the Ranges against held the advantage with a 21-point buffer at the break thanks to three goals to two.

By thre quarter time, the game was effectively over, because despite it being a 32-point advantage, Eastern made it look more like a 10-goal advantage, dominating play and missing a few chances to put the Falcons away.

Between the teams, 4.11 was kicked in the third term, frustrating players and fans.

The final term was done and dusted within a few minutes once Eastern extended the margin to seven goals, and while the Falcons scored a couple of consolation goals near the end, the Ranges ran away with it to win by 54 points.

TAC Cup leading goalkicker Blake Hardwick finished with three goals, while bottom-ager Jaidyn Stephenson and the consistent Anthony Brolic finished with two apiece.

Along with Clarke and Maibaum, ruckman Beau Mitchener was strong around the ground, while Dylan Clarke was consistent once again.

For the Falcons, Tom Doedee, Alex Witherden and Harry Kershaw were among the best, while the pint-sized Logan Wagener was dangerous around goals but kicked just the one with a few missed opportunities.

After a disappointing loss to the Ranges in the preliminary final two years ago and going out in straight sets last year, another straight sets exit for the Falcons will be a shattering feeling.

For Eastern, they will live another day, taking on the Dandenong Stingrays next Saturday for a spot in the TAC Cup grand final.

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