ELEVEN unanswered goals from Sandringham Dragons in the space of 47 minutes gave spectators at Preston City Oval an idea of what the fourth placed side is capable of, completely dismantling Geelong Falcons. The Falcons were brave for the first term, but ultimately overwhelmed once the Dragons’ machine got going, piling on eight goals to zero in the second term to open up a 62-point lead by half-time. Despite the Dragons missing top talents Jack Mahony and Josh Worrell to injury, the side that had double-figure Victorian representatives and draft combine invites went to work and once the pressure eased around the ground, the Dragons took complete control. While the Falcons managed to stem the flow at times, the Dragons still took control in the second half with a nine goals to two half which saw them run out 103-point winners.
Geelong started the game with serious intent against the fourth placed Dragons, keeping them on par in the first half of the opening term. After a scrappy opening few minutes with both defences standing up, Fischer McAsey marked out on the lead 35m from goal. He shanked the kick, but Blake O’Leary was fortuitously in front of his opponent and marked 15m out straight in front to convert and put through the Dragons’ first. Angus Hanrahan and Ryan Byrnes were having a feast in midfield, and while the Falcons domination going forward – more inside 50s finally paid off with a couple of shots on goal, the Dragons defence was steady. Oliver Henry missed a chance with his set shot blowing to the right, before a 50-metre penalty to Archie Hildebrandt handed Geelong the lead midway through the quarter.
It was not long before the combination of Hanrahan, Byrnes and Darcy Chirgwin soon got the Dragons back on top, with Byrnes pumping the ball long inside 50 in front of Kyle Yorke who did the rest with a dribbler from the boundary line. In the final minute, a 50-metre penalty to Chirgwin handed his side a third goal heading into the first break, and a handy 11-point lead. The Dragons’ desire was typified by a crucial one-on-two contest win by Harry Loughnan at half-back who not only nullified the contest while outnumbered, but got the ball to his teammates to run it down the field. Hanrahan (12 disposals) and Byrnes (nine) were dominant, while O’Leary (seven and a goal) and Chirgwin (seven and a goal) were also among the best. For Geelong, Charlie Lazzaro had seven touches, while Tanner Bruhn showed touches of class, and Cam Fleeton took two great intercept marks. Remarkably the Dragons had 40 more disposals (97-57) at quarter time, but the Falcons had an extra inside 50 (9-8).
If there was any doubt about Sandringham’s claim as a genuine NAB League contender, it was put to bed in the second term, as the Dragons negotiated the wind perfectly with a complete domination of the Falcons. They ended the wooden spooners’ hopes of an upset, with eight goals to zero, four of which came in the first nine minutes. In those nine minutes, the Dragons needed just 30 disposals to slam home the four goals, with a Byrnes pass into Jack Bell, Chirgwin hitting up McAsey, Archie Perkins snapping truly, and then the best goal to Hugo Ralphsmith. The midfielder-forward smothered the ball, intercepted it in one motion and bombed long from 50m. Bell plucked out a full bag of tricks with a massive hanger on the wing, and while Jackson Voss’ subsequent shot on goal from Bell’s kick missed in the breeze, it would not be long before the Dragons added more.
Every time Geelong went forward, the Dragons would look composed, run it out of defence and get it straight down the other end, with Josh Le Grice hitting up McAsey for his second, and a forward 50 turnover helping Miles Bergman mark and add his name to the goalkickers list. After the only score of the second term for the Falcons – a double poster from a Gennaro Bove snap – business as usual resumed for the Dragons as Bergman put it through the middle from 50, and then Byrnes added his name to the goalkickers list with the final goal of the quarter – the Dragons’ eleventh. Such was their dominance with the blustery wind, Bergman added a behind after the half-time siren with a bomb from the wing that bounced all the way home thanks to shepherding but went the wrong side of the post. At the main break, the top five ball winners were all Dragons, with Hanrahan and Byrnes the clear best with 18 touches each, while Finn Maginness stepped up in the second term to have 14 by half-time. For the Falcons, Bruhn was one of few to stand up the in second quarter and had 10 touches by the main break. The Dragons’ efficiency was the most impressive, with just 24 more disposals in the term (84-60) but 21 inside 50s to five, and of course eight goals to zero.
The third term was almost identical to the first, with Sandringham doing enough to win the term, booting three goals to one with the blustery wind favouring the Falcons’ end. The Dragons booted their eleventh on the trot thanks to a well-positioned Bergman who marked off a set shot from Chirgwin. Similar to McAsey’s shank in the first term, the ball weirdly dropped short and Bergman rose high to pull it down and convert the goal. Geelong finally broke its goal drought when Bruhn won a free kick in the pocket, and some choice words from Dragons defender led to him earning a 50-metre penalty and kicking from the square with no one on the mark. They had more chances in the term, but the Falcons could not convert with Lazzaro’s shot going wide, and then Bergman’s work around the ground was having a massive impact. The midfield of the Dragons got back on top in the second half of the quarter, with Byrnes running it down the wing and a chain of possessions leading to Charlie Dean in the pocket who centred it to O’Leary for his second straight in front. Dean’s switch to the forward line proved extra beneficial when he took a good grab in the goalsquare off a Ralphsmith high pass, then Dean kicked it from point blank for the Dragons’ third of the term. Both teams suffered injury concerns in the quarter with Henry helped off after coming off second best in a marking contest, and Voss going down with what looked to be a serious leg injury after falling close to the post in defence just before the three quarter time siren. The Dragons were home and hosed heading into the final term, leading by an even 12 goals.
Sandringham ran out the game strongly with the blustery gale still giving them plenty of distance on the kicks going forward. Chirgwin almost added another major to his name early but the set shot missed. Ralphsmith had no such trouble from the boundary line, surprising even himself with a snap around the body sailing through for a miraculous goal. His effort was followed by Maginness – who booted his first of the game – and Bergman who nailed his fourth from a set shot after an uncontested mark inside 50. Max Annadale had an opportunity to kick Geelong’s third of the game against the tide, but sprayed the shot to the right from 15m out after winning the free kick from a great tackle. Dean capitalised up the other end with a goal straight in front, and then Bell booted his second and with six minutes remaining the margin was into triple figures. Hilderbrandt booted a consolation goal for the Falcons late in the game, but Jake Bowey then countered with a goal of his own for the Dragons to run out the game 103-point victors.
Hanrahan finished the game with a match-high 31 disposals, four marks, three inside 50s and two rebounds, while Byrnes picked up 27 dispossals, four marks, eight inside 50s, four tackles and a goal. Chirgwin (27 touches, four marks, four inside 50s, four tackles and a goal), Maginness (27 disposals, five marks, six tackles and four inside 50s) were also prominent through the middle. Bergman was the dominant player with four majors from 17 disposals, eight marks, five inside 50s and four tackles, while Ralphsmith booted two majors from 16 disposals, three marks and four inside 50s. For the Falcons, Lazzaro had 18 touches, three marks, six inside 50s and three tackles, while Noah Gribble (15 disposals, four tackles) and Bruhn (14 disposals, three inside 50s and two tackles) worked hard throughout the game.
SANDRINGHAM DRAGONS 3.0 | 11.4 | 14.4 | 20.6 (126)
GEELONG FALCONS 1.1 | 1.2 | 2.4 | 3.5 (23)
Sandringham: M. Bergman 4, F. McAsey 2, B. O’Leary 2, H. Ralphsmith 2, J. Bell 2, C. Dean 2, K. Yorke, D. Chirgwin, A. Perkins, R. Byrnes, F. Maginness, J. Bowey.
Geelong: A. Hildebrandt 2, T. Bruhn.
Sandringham: M. Bergman, R. Byrnes, A. Hanrahan, D. Chirgwin, H. Ralphsmith, F. Maginness.
Geelong: T. Bruhn, G. Bove, C. Lazzaro, N. Gribble, J. Clark, C. Karpala.