TAC Cup finals review: Week three wrap

Dandenong Stingrays 5.7 (37)
Eastern Ranges 8.17 (65)

Dandenong goals: J. Weitering 2, K. Collins, K. Mutimer, S. Gladman.
Eastern goals: C. Brown (3), J. Stephenson (3), B. Hardwick, R.Clarke.

Dandenong best: D. Capiron, J. Weitering, T. Jok, K. Collins, B. White
Eastern best: R. Clarke, B. Batty, D. Clarke, A. Cotte, C. Brown

Eastern Ranges have remarkably come from fifth position to make their second TAC Cup grand final in three years. The Ranges overcame Dandenong in an impressive contest, which saw the Stingrays come late, but the Ranges held firm.

Two sides that play the complete opposite with a focus on attack (Eastern) compared to defence (Dandenong), it was always going to be an entertaining contest. Once the game broke open in the third term, it was always going to be tough for the Stingrays as the Ranges ran away with the match and held their nerve to win by 28 points.

Ryan and Dylan Clarke were dominant once again, while Bryce Batty and Aaron Cotte continued to find plenty of the ball. Blake Hardwick was quiet early but started to come to the fore later in the match when the Ranges needed him. Their fast paced style and unpredictability stifled the normally calm defence, exemplified by a holding the ball free against Jacob Weitering on the last line of defence, a rare blunder by the top two draft pick.

Underrated small forwards Callum Brown and Jaidyn Stephenson booted three goals each, while Hardwick and Ryan Clarke booted one goal each.

For the Stingrays, Jacob Weitering was thrown forward in the last quarter to kick 2.1, something suggested in the Bound For Glory News game preview, but it was too little too late. Kieran Collins started forward in a surprise move, but only spent a quarter there before returning to the familiar centre half back. The fact that the pair played a combined two quarters in the forward line and kicked three of the Stingrays’ five goals, showed the ineffectiveness Dandenong’s normal setup.

Jonathan Freeman was superb in the air, but his kicking was off, missing multiple chances throughout the day. But given Eastern’s radar, Dandenong was lucky to even get as close as they did, with the Ranges booting 8.17 in an inaccurate display.

Daniel Capiron was sensational at half-back for the Stingrays, repelling everything within his reach, while Jacob Weitering showed he could play at both ends. Thomas Glen was another who could hold his head high, while Brandon White provided a few highlights in the air.

The match was a disappointment for Dandenong who went in strong favourites, but the run and carry of the Ranges, as well as the willing to back themselves against the strong defence, was a feature of their gameplay. After taking out the Geelong Falcons last week, Eastern made it two top four country teams from two, knocking out the Stingrays and advancing to their second grand final in three years.

Last time they saluted in 2013, Tom Boyd returned from a long-term injury to boot four goals in a three-figure belting of the Stingrays. This time round, they face Oakleigh Chargers who are gunning for their third flag in four years, having won the two premierships either side of Eastern’s 2013 success.

North Ballarat Rebels 8.9 (57)
Oakleigh Chargers 13.11 (89)

North Ballarat goals: J. Cowan 2, J.Hopper 2, T.Taurau, D.Rioli, M.Johnston, J.Korewha
Oakleigh goals: P.Phillips 3, H.Thompson 2, B.Crocker 2, T.Phillips 2, D.Johnstone, K.Answerth, V.Adduci, S.McLarty

North Ballarat best: J.Hopper, Y.Eades, J.Cowan, B.Lloyd, J.Webster
Oakleigh best: K.Answerth, L.Byrne-Jones, F.Pearce, D.Johnstone, J.Whitehead

The Oakleigh Chargers came from behind to secure their spot in the TAC Cup grand final for the third time in four seasons.  The Chargers kicked 10 goals to three in the second half to run away winners, now finding themselves in the hunt for back to back premierships.

Pat Phillips and Ben Crocker both kicked two goals in the third quarter, giving the Chargers the advantage running into the final quarter. With Oakleigh leading by a goal with a quarter to play, an inspiring three quarter time speech was able to propel them to kick away from the Rebels, booting five goals to one to run out 32 point winners.

Jacob Hopper fought valiantly in the midfield for the Rebels. Hopper was the Rebels’ best player, laying six tackles and kicking two goals in his 26 disposal game. Yestin Eades also provided a spark up forward for the Rebels, but was unable to hit the scoreboard.

The Chargers midfield brigade of Kade Answerth, Fraser Pearce and Tom Phillips were able to beat their opponents and ensured that Oakleigh were able to continue to bring the ball inside 50 allowing for tall targets Sam McLarty and Harry Thompson to impact the contest.

Lachie Byrne-Jones also provided great run and dash from the defence. Byrne-Jones has provided great highlights during the TAC Cup finals, showing his speed to accelerate from opponents and run the ball forward.

Oakleigh now meet Eastern in the all-Metro final, in an attempt to go back-to-back after their 47 point win against Calder last year.

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