Classic Contests: Ranges hold off Knights in tight thriller at Box Hill

IF you are missing footy like we are, then let us somewhat salvage that with a look back in a new series of Classic Contests. In today’s contest it is a clash between sides who would have played in Round 1 this year. Today we travel back in time to a late-2017 encounter between the Eastern Ranges and Northern Knights, who played out a thriller at Box Hill City Oval.

EASTERN RANGES 2.2 | 6.6 | 8.10 | 10.11 (71)
NORTHERN KNIGHTS 2.4 | 4.5 | 6.6 | 9.8 (62)

Round 14 | Saturday, July 29, 2017
Box Hill City Oval, 2.00pm

With the season winding down in late July, 2017 and only five rounds remaining, two metropolitan clubs faced off at Box Hill in a mid-table clash. Just two points separated the sides with Northern Knights sitting in sixth with six wins and a draw, while Eastern Ranges were seventh with just the six wins flat. Both were a couple of games clear of eighth and ninth Gippsland Power and Calder Cannons respectively. Eastern was closing the gap on Northern having knocked off Gippsland Power by nine goals the week before on the road, while Northern had fallen to Dandenong Stingrays by 29 points a week earlier.

Heading into the clash, the Ranges had a number of highly fancied prospects in Jaidyn Stephenson, Sam Hayes, Thomas North and Ryley Stoddart, with the likes of Cody Hirst, Xavier Fry and Harrison Nolan also putting in strong consistent performances throughout the season. A couple of 16-year-old talents were also making their debuts for the Ranges with James Ross and Jamieson Rossiter playing for the first time off the back of the Under 16 Championships. For Northern, first round prospect Nick Coffield was the standout in the side, while they also had speedster Jack Petruccelle who could turn the game in a moment. Aside from the AFL talent, the Knights would go on to have a number of VFL stars on the books as well, namely Marcus Lentini and Braedyn Gillard – the latter of whom would suffer a broken elbow in his top-age year the following season.

The first quarter was a tight tussle with the Knights taking the early advantage by just two points at quarter time. They continued to push, but the firepower of the Ranges was starting to come out as the team booted 4.4 to 2.1 to take back the lead and race out to a 13-point advantage at the main break. It proved to be a real difference in the game, with both sides converting two majors in the third term, though the Ranges could have had more with an inaccurate 2.4 to 2.1, pushing the lead out to 16. A more accurate Eastern side had to hold on in the final term as the Knights came charging home, booting 3.2 to Eastern’s 2.1 and get within nine points at the final siren.

Hirst was named best on ground for his four goals off 19 disposals, three marks, six tackles, two clearances and two rebounds with the future Sydney talent showing off his athletic abilities as a bottom-ager. Hayes was phenomenal through the ruck, having 30 hitouts and seven clearances to go with 17 disposals, three marks, two tackles, two inside 50s and a goal, while Stephenson (17 disposals, four marks, six tackles and four inside 50s) was prominent up the ground. Stoddart (15 disposals, six marks and four rebounds) continued his good form in defence alongside Nolan (12 disposals, five marks and four rebounds). Rossiter finished the game with 11 touches and a goal, as Ross also booted a major from four disposals. In terms of the big ball winners, it was Kye Quirk (28 disposals, four inside 50s), Jordan Lynch (26 disposals, nine marks, seven tackles and four inside 50s) and MacKenzie Doreian (23 disposals, three marks, five clearances, six inside 50s and a goal) working hard with North (19 disposals, eight tackles and four clearances).

The Knights found plenty of the ball themselves, as Gillard had a day out with 36 disposals (16 contested), four tackles, seven clearances, four rebounds and two goals, partnering up with Mitchell Andrews (31 disposals, eight marks, two inside 50s, five rebounds and a goal). Lentini (24 disposals, dive marks, 11 tackles, five clearances and three rebounds) and Patrick Howe (25 disposals, six marks and six rebounds) were also among the big ball winners, as was Sam Binion (20 disposals, five marks, five tackles, four clearances, five inside 50s and a goal). From the two future draftees, Coffield picked up 19 touches, six marks, three clearances, four inside 50s, four rebounds and a goal, while Petruccelle had 16 touches, four marks, three clearances and four inside 50s.

Both sides would end up making finals with Eastern Ranges finishing sixth and Northern Knights, eighth. It would be a forgettable day at Victoria Park for those elimination finals as the Knights were completely destroyed by Oakleigh Chargers, while Eastern was on the receiving end of one of the best comebacks in TAC Cup history when Dandenong Stingrays came from the clouds to overrun them. The Ranges would end up with their best draft haul ever though in what was a terrific year for them,

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