Rangers Keep Rolling to 3-1, Sit Second on GV Standings

The Jetmaster Heat & Glo Croydon Rangers Hawthorn Hotel Men’s team returned to Ranger Field on Saturday, facing the 1-2 Melbourne University Royals in what had been hyped as “the match of the round” on the Gridiron DownUnder Division 1 Preview Story.

Sean Embery in full effect!

The weather forecast was bordering on apocalyptic with rain, hail, howling wind, low temperatures and “blizzards” all talked about. In the end, aside from the irregular gusts of wind, and the (bearable) low temperature, the weather was actually wonderful for an August football match.

The Rangers received the ball, and following a touchback on the opening kick-off, Jamie Stafford found Trevor Osborne seaming down the middle of the field, catching the pass about 15 yards beyond the line of scrimmage before sprint, high stepping and dodging any would be tacklers to take the ball to the house on the opening play from scrimmage. An early 6-0 lead to the Rangers with just a handful of seconds off the clock.

With the Royals first play from scrimmage, Mark Doyle again playing back at LB, was able to recover a fumble, and hand the ball back to the offense on the Royal 36 yards line, looking to put on two very quick scores. A stalled series, followed by a penalty on 4th down left the Rangers punting, with Sean Embery finding his range, dropping the ball on the 5 yard line. The Royals PR gathered the ball, and trying to find space, was tackled back at the 1 yard line by Liam Fordham.

Defense swarmed all day to the ball

Backed up on their own 1 yard line, the Royals would mount their best, and only scoring, drive of the day. A 23 play series culminated in a 2 yard TD run on third down, with the first play of the second quarter. With the extra point attempt good, the Royals lead 7-6.

A series of stalled offensive drives, with the Rangers punting on consecutive series managing only a single first down, while the Royals QB Alex Franklin continued to find his ex-teammates in green with third down picks to Jack Ahern and Liam Fordham. Unable to capitalise on the opportunities, the offenses continue to sputter until the final two minutes of the half. Playing hurry up football, and starting from the Rangers 14 yard line, Jamie Stafford took to the air on 8 consecutive plays, finding Sean Embery three times, Trevor Osborne once and Jake Yardley for the 30 yard TD reception with 11 seconds left on the clock. Great clock management, and great passing by Stafford to orchestrate the score. The blocked Extra Point gave the Rangers a 12-7 lead at the half.

Iconic image of the match: The Lion King

The Rangers defence forced a three and out to open the second half, with pressure on the punt and Osborne getting 25 yards on the return to give the Rangers great field position. A 13 yard run by Ahern set up the Rangers first and 10 on the Royals 25, and on the third attempt, Stafford connected with Osborne for the score, 18-7.

Rangers QB back to Throw

The Ranger defence continued to shine through the second half, giving up just two first downs on the first 6 Melbourne Uni drives of the half. The domination by the defence provided the Rangers offense with plenty of scoring opportunities gifted by winning the field position battle. Special teams again would have their say, with Sean Embery dropping 45 yard punt on the Royals 8 yard line, with Damian Pope Vanterpool swooping to recover the muffed catch.  With first and goal from the seven yard line, Jamie Stafford found Embery for his first TD reception of the year, and the Rangers moved to 24-7, the final score of the game.

Sitting at 3-1, the Rangers look ahead to this Saturday’s clash in Clayton against the 0-4 South Eastern Predators, desperately looking for their first scalp.

Photos courtesy of barendphotos.com

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