Inaccuracy in front of goal proved costly in Sandringham’s quest to win in primetime under Friday Night Lights against the Dandenong Stingrays.
The Dragons suffered their second consecutive loss to go 3-3 in the NAB League Boys season and are now sitting in seventh on the ladder, two wins and percentage outside the top eight.
The wet and dewy conditions made for a difficult outing where skill execution errors and transitional mishaps eventually came back to haunt the Dragons.
Dandenong kicked the first two goals of the game courtesy of free kicks and were more efficient all day going inside 50.
The Dragons responded when Gus McLennan released Chris Rousakis on the outside, before the two-gamer Rousakis found big Max Ramsden one out inside forward 50.
Sandringham’s defence were often under siege due to Dandenong’s slick ball movement, with the Stingrays forwards having plenty of space to operate in.
Big Ramsden’s cleanliness at ground level was again on show as he snapped a brilliant goal early in the second quarter to give the Dragons the lead.
But four goals in less than five minutes meant the Rays shot out to a handy margin and had all the momentum.
Dandenong’s ability to transition the ball from defence to attack with ease hurt the Dragons who were unable to take their own opportunities in front of goal.
Trailing by 27 points at half time, the Dragons came out after the main break breathing fire, with goals to debutants Toby McMullin and Harvey Johnston reigniting the Sandringham side.
A goal from Chris Rousakis at the eleven-minute mark of the third term reduced the deficit to just three points and suddenly the Dragons looked like they could mount a charge.
But the Rays booted the next four majors, and the Dragons yet again had a margin to try and reel back in.
The Dragons did not give up and kept coming at the impressive Stingrays, kicking the next three goals of the match before Dandenong steadied and stabilised again, slotting the final three goals of the contest to run out 21-point victors.
The Stingrays’ ability to generate deeper forward 50 entries meant their shots on goal were from better positions and ultimately the Dragons were unable to convert their own opportunities in front of goal.
Lochie Benton (34 disposals) was everywhere for the Dragons and was named amongst the best by the Dragons coaching staff.
Benton’s power around the contest and footballing smarts were a standout in slippery conditions where other players struggled.
Playing more defence that usual, Benton’s run and carry off half back also helped to set up ventures forward.
Livewire Charlie Clarke (25 disposals, six marks) provided an extra yard of pace and added another dimension to Sandringham’s midfield whilst midfielder Will Ashcroft (27 disposals, eight marks, six tackles) had another solid outing.
In defence, James Creighton (18 disposals, four rebound 50s) and Ethan Williams (17 disposals, seven rebound 50s) did their best to stop the Stingrays advances forward and repel the Dragons from defence into offense.
Nathan Scollo (14 disposals) also fought valiantly in defence.
The Dragons will take on the 15th placed Northern Knights this weekend at RSEA Park as they look to get back on the winners list.
MORE FRESH FACES
Sandringham blooded a further seven debutants, taking their tally to 16 in two weeks after a plethora of players were unavailable due to injury and school football commitments.
In tricky conditions, the Dragons boys conducted themselves well in front of a large crowd at Shepley Oval.
Ethan Smith’s (17 disposals, four inside 50s) attack on the ball set the tone for those around him, whilst Toby McMullin was creative around goals booting two majors.
Harvey Johnston was also lively around the ball and kicked a goal early in the third term as a catalyst for the Dragons’ surge.
MID-SEASON NOMINEES CONTINUE TO SHINE
The Dragons have had three players nominate for the mid-season draft including Hugo Hall-Kahan, Max Ramsden and Ben Andrews.
Hugo Hall-Kahan booted 11 goals in three weeks between Rounds 2-4 but has since spent the majority of his time in the midfield or on a wing, where he has been able to showcase his ball-winning ability.
Hall-Kahan amassed 21 disposals, four inside 50s and a goal with his aggression and versatility proving an asset for the Dragons yet again.
Ruckman Max Ramsden spent more time forward as a target inside forward 50 than in previous weeks and had two goals shortly after quarter time.
However, he continued to support young ruckman Jake Johnson and Jake Nicholas in the centre square, especially when the game was on the line.
Ben Andrews (12 disposals, four marks) continues to be a pillar of consistency in defence, with his intercept marking and ability to read the play a highlight of his game.
Andrews’ leadership has also been important in the past fortnight, as a new-look defence has taken shape without the likes of Jakob Anderson, Archie Roberts and Will Brown.
The NAB AFL Mid-Season Rookie Draft takes place this Wednesday night (June 1) from 6.30pm.