TAC Cup review: Finals Week 3
The Eastern Ranges and Oakleigh Chargers will face off in an all-Metro TAC Cup Grand Final at Etihad Stadium on Sunday, after the decimation of an all-Country top four was completed in the Preliminary Finals.
The Ranges and Chargers, who finished fifth and sixth respectively at the end of the home-and-away season, have defied conventional wisdom that premiership teams come from the top four with a series of stunning September performances.
Eastern (2013) and Oakleigh (2012 and 2014) have taken out the last three TAC Cup flags, and one of them will this year continue a run of premierships won by Metro teams that extends back to the Murray Bushrangers’ triumph in 2008.
EASTERN RANGES 8.17 (65) d DANDENONG STINGRAYS 5.7 (37)
The Ranges continued their blistering finals form and often made the Stingrays look like their week off was still continuing with a powerhouse defensive performance.
A big difference in the quality of forward line entries was established early on, as Dandenong struggled to penetrate a cohesive Eastern defence, while the Ranges rebounded dangerously and were able to catch the Stingrays defenders napping. Livewire forward options Jayden Stephenson (three goals), Callum Brown (three) and Blake Hardwick (one) caused havoc all match off the back of a stout Eastern defence featuring Anthony Brolic, Haydn Stanley and Kane Keppel.
The conduits between the arcs for the Ranges were midfielders such as Bryce Batty, Aaron Cotte and Ryan Clarke, who kept running throughout. Eastern could have put the game to bed by three-quarter time if not for inaccuracy in front of goal, and a 31-point lead at the last change became 20 after Dandenong backman Jacob Weitering was switched into attack and promptly booted two goals, but that was almost the only shot the Stingrays fired all day. Daniel Capiron and Thomas Jok enjoyed their moments, but ultimately there weren’t enough teammates contributing alongside them.
OAKLEIGH CHARGERS 13.11 (89) d NORTH BALLARAT REBELS 8.9 (57)
The Chargers came home with a wet sail against the Rebels, booting 10 goals to three in the second half to end the season of the 2015 minor premiers.
Oakleigh appeared to have the run of play in the first half, but still trailed by 12 points at half time due to North Ballarat’s exceptional efficiency once inside 50. Rebels midfielders such as Ben Lusby, Joel Cowan and Joseph Symons were all influential, but the Chargers’ bulk of possession eventually told after the main break. Dangerous medium-sized goalkickers such as Pat Phillips (three goals), Tom Phillips (two) and captain Ben Crocker (two) started finding their radar, and the Rebels found themselves needing to respond quickly.
Jacob Hopper provided a spark with two final-quarter majors, but it was all against the tide as Oakleigh big men Sam McLarty and Harry Thompson started to impose themselves on the contest while Lachlan Byrne-Jones continued a scintillating finals series by providing dash out of defence. There were stars across the field for Chargers, while several potential match-winners for North Ballarat were kept too quiet to lead their team across the line.
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