Senior Rangers Drop Second on the Trot in loss to Warriors, Slide to Third

It was billed as the match of the round, the deepest of GV rivalries – Rangers vs Warriors. Coming off the league bye, the two teams were sitting second and third on the GV table, with the winner likely to hold the advantage on the home stretch to secure a top two finish.

Much like the first encounter in Week 2 of the season, the match commenced as a defensive struggle. Shane Hardy set the tone on the first play from scrimmage with a solo sack on the Warriors QB, and the defence recorded their first or two 3-and-out series of the day. The Rangers offense started in a similar manner, and four plays later, the Rangers were punting and the field position game had commenced.

On a second solid defensive series, giving up 13 yards, the Warriors just past midfield went to the air on 4th and 14. Liam Fordham was able to bat the ball down, and the Rangers commenced their second series with the ball on the just beyond midfield. Quarterback Jamie Stafford would connect with receivers Jake Yardley & Trevor Osbourne, as well as RB Andrew Amato who was in for his first game of the season. The three completions and a handful of short yardage runs found the Rangers in the Red Zone, with a 1st and Goal opportunity from inside the 3 yard line. The Rangers offense however stalled at this point, with three runs for no positive gain and a pass deep out the back of the end zone, giving the ball back to the Warriors on their own 6 yard line to start the second quarter.

Andrew Amato runs for the Rangers

The Warriors would then commence their longest drive of the day, moving the ball with ease primarily through the air, with the winds now at their back. Five consecutive completions interspersed with three shorts runs saw the Warriors now with their own Red Zone opportunity, with a 1st and Goal opportunity from the 9-yard line. Tyson Burgess stuffed the first run, and then the Warriors aired out on three consecutive plays from the 8-yard line, all falling incomplete, on the back of some solid secondary work by Burgess and Fawlo Apai. Both teams had traded consecutive goal line defensive stands, and the offenses looked to try and wrestle back the upper hand.

The Rangers however were unable to get things moving forward for long, after securing a first down and some breathing room, a series of negative yardage plays found the Rangers backed up on their own four yard line on fourth down, with Sean Embery punting into the wind with a face full of Warriors rushing, looking for a defensive score. The rushed punt sailed out of bounds, and the Warriors started with their best opportunity of the day, starting just 21 yards out from their End Zone.

The Rangers defence looked to be standing strong again, and it appeared to be another Red Zone stand in the making, but on 4th and 12 from the 13 yard line, the Warriors passed into the end zone, and held the lead 6-0. With 2 minutes left in the half, Stafford again found Yardley, Osbourne and Amato on three consecutive short yardage passes. One last play for the half fell incomplete, and the Rangers found themselves down at the half, but well invested in the game.
The Rangers started the second half with the ball, but as with their opening series in the first half, the offense could not produce, and they went three and out before punting. Embery, with a bit more time on this occasion, landed the ball inside the 20, with Fordham wrapping the returner for no yards, backing the Warriors up early as the field position game resumed.

The Rangers defence continued to pressure the Warriors, and following a completed pass, Fordham and Brock Wellington converged and knocked the ball loose, which was recovered by Hardy in his second big defensive play of the day. This was the third time the Rangers had jarred the ball lose from the Warriors, and they finally received just rewards, starting the drive in great field position. Three short runs from Stafford and Amato, and a reception to Osbourne, and the Rangers we’re again inside the red zone with a 1st and Goal. With Stafford connecting on 5 of his last 6 attempts, the Rangers looked to the air to hit the scoreboard, however, the Warriors would come down the ball in the Rangers only turnover for the day.

In a stout defensive stand, the Rangers pushed the Warriors back to their own 1 yard before they punted on fourth down, and the Rangers started on the Warriors 45 yard line, still with great field position. However, the Warriors defence continued to stop the Rangers run, with Embery forced to punt again on 4th down. Again Fordham would prove his value on special teams, downing the ball on the two yard line to close out the third quarter, with the Warriors backed up on their own goal line, still holding a slim 6-0 lead.

Safety Brock Wellington with the football

Six consecutive positive yardage plays of short yard passes and rushes provided the Warriors with breathing space as they marched downfield. On their own 35-yard line, the Warriors QB found the wide open receiver streaking down the sideline on a blown coverage play, going all the way t the house for a 65-yard TD, gifting the Warriors a 12-0 lead mid-way through the fourth quarter.

The Rangers started their next drive at mid-field, needing to score twice to get the game back on even terms, and the Warriors defence now started playing with their backs up, aided by the protection of a two score lead and a ticking game clock. Following three runs, the Rangers now faced 4th and 4, with not enough time left to do anything other than to try and secure a first down. The pass fell incomplete and the Warriors took over at mid-field.

Needing the ball back immediately, the Rangers defence started trying to jump the routes of the Warriors receivers, looking for a second turnover of the day. Instead, the Warriors connected on their third passing touchdown of the day, putting the game beyond doubt late in the fourth quarter, running out 18-0 winners.
The Rangers will look to put their two most disappointing performances of the season behind them, and Head Coach Mel Martin will need to refocus the players for this weekend’s match against in Geelong against the Buccaneers. Despite slipping to third on the table, with three matches remaining, they sit in a good place requiring just one more win to guarantee finals in 2018, and a likely semi-final match up against the Warriors.

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