By Hayley Wildes
The Dandenong Stingrays have again showcased their class and depth in a first versus second showdown against the Murray Bushrangers at RAMS Arena on Saturday.
In what shaped as the game of the round, the contest absolutely lived up to the hype in a high-scoring affair.
It was an even first quarter as neither side was able to break the game open. The Stingrays had their chances, but squandered some opportunities to get off to a strong start.
After one quarter it was the Rays leading 2.3 (15) to 2.0 (12). Both sides were cracking in at the contest and the back and forth action showcased why these two teams were at the top of the ladder.
The second quarter was when the Rays made their move and through the likes of Bailey Williams, Sam Fletcher and Corey Ellison up forward, Dandenong took control of the game.
Despite their dominant quarter, the Rays were again wasteful in front of goal. Their 22-point half time lead should’ve been closer to 40 points had they finished off their good work.
The Bushrangers’ straight kicking, 5.0 (30), was keeping them in the contest as the Rays had more than three times as many scoring shots; 7.10 (52).
An arm-wrestle took place in the third quarter as the stars for both teams got heavily involved. Hudson Garoni (seven goals), Ben Kelly and Laitham Vandermeer stepped up for the Rangers, while Zac Foot, Matthew Cottrell and Jai Taylor started to get busy for the Rays.
A 16-point Dandenong lead with a quarter to go had the match set up for a thrilling final quarter.
A shootout ensued in the fourth. Excellent ball movement and forward half teamwork was on display from both teams.
A whopping 11 goals were kicked in the quarter as the Rays finally found their range in front of goal, booting 6.1 (37) for the term to claim an impressive 16.13 (109) to 14.3 (87) win.
In a season that has been full of impressive performances, the Rays once again stepped up to the challenge and put together a tremendous team effort.
Corey Ellison was electric in the forward half, booting six majors in a best afield performance. The big forward controlled the Rays’ forward half, toying with the Bushrangers defenders for much of the day.
He wasn’t alone though, as Bailey Williams, Sam Fletcher and Zac Foot continued their impressive run of form. Williams is a key pillar for the Rays and his ability to work over his opponent with his athleticism was again on show.
After seven rounds, the Rays now boast a 6-1 record and sit on top of the ladder. Next week sees Dandenong take on Sandringham at Shepley Oval from 10:45am Sunday.