SANDRINGHAM clinched a thrilling victory from the jaws of defeat at Mars Stadium on Saturday, with a three-goal-to-one final term seeing the Dragons claim a two-point triumph over a spirited Geelong Falcons outfit.
The 16th-placed Falcons led by as much as 30-points in the third quarter, before an ultimately overwhelming late Dragons surge saw Sandy take the 8.10 (58) to 7.18 (60) win despite inaccuracy in front of goal.
Morning dew and a notable breeze combined to make playing conditions tough despite the shining sun, with the Falcons kicking the first three goals of the match in a scrappy opening quarter.
Debutant Ollie Lord booted Sandy’s first major early in the second term, reducing the deficit to eight points and seeing every Dragons player congregate to celebrate the tall forward’s first NAB League goal.
But the Falcons continued to convert their chances, booting the next three goals to set up a threatening 26-point lead at the main break, despite the impressive efforts of Jackson Voss, Archie Perkins and William Mackay.
After an arm-wrestle for the first half of the third term, the Dragons slowly started to creep their way back into the contest, with goals from Lachie Lamble and Riley Bowman reducing the margin back to 19-points.
The Falcons, though, responded with a late-quarter goal, appearing to lay a solid winning foundation with a 25-point lead as three-quarter time approached.
But George Grey had other ideas, with a stirring soccer out of heavy goal-square traffic—almost as the siren sounded—keeping the Dragons well-within striking distance.
The Falcons kicked the first of the final term, but an instant riposte from small forward Jai Florent sparked a heavy Sandy surge.
Two quick goals from Voss and Kyle Yorke saw the Falcons’ lead trimmed away to just five points in a flash, before a spate of late behinds—seven of them—eventually got the Dragons over the line in a nail-biting finish.
Head coach Josh Bourke said the Falcons came to play.
“Geelong were up for the game and took it to our group,” he said.
When quizzed upon the unusual inaccuracy in front of goal, Bourke also took note of Geelong’s strong defence, but indicated the Dragons need to improve.
“To be honest it’s a combination of Geelong defending really well and a handful of easy misses. Put those together and you end up with 7.18. No doubt taking opportunities will be a focus for us in coming weeks.”
With a remarkable 14 players out due to national championships duties, Bourke said maintaining team chemistry was “a massive challenge” but was hopeful in players continuing to take responsibility.
“We’ve been big on the responsibility and ownership that goes with wearing the jumper,” he declared.
“Hopefully that theme keeps us on track.”
The head coach praised the efforts of Jesse Castan, Jake Bowey, Mackay, Angus Hanrahan and ruckman Andrew Courtney, and said the final quarter efforts of Perkins and Florent “probably won the game” for the Dragons.
With the futures rounds approaching as a focus on up-and-coming 17-year-olds takes centre stage, Bourke will hand the senior coaching reigns to assistant Jackson Kornberg for the next two matches, with a focus on improving offensive play.
The Dragons’ next assignment comes in the form of the Eastern Ranges in Box Hill at 1pm on Sunday June 23.
GOALS: G. Grey, L. Lamble, K. Yorke, J. Florent, O. Lord, J. Voss, R. Bowman BEST: J. Bowey, J. Castan, J. Lloyd, W. Mackay, N. Burke, A. Perkins