Big win in the hills

IN idyllic conditions at Healesville, Gippsland Power got back to its best TAC Cup football form with a resounding victory over the Eastern Ranges on Saturday.

It took the Power a half to finally reward itself on the scoreboard but, when the players followed all aspects of the game plan, they made highly effective use of their forward forays to record a 56-point win, 17.16 (118) to 9.8 (62).

Key players Xavier Duursma and Sam Flanders returned to the side while Levi Munns and debutant, Zach Skinner were bought in to share the big man duties. Missing were Rylan Henkel, Harvey Neocleous, Alex Young and Josh Wykes so the balance and structure of the side were maintained.

The Ranges side had made an indifferent start to their season and, on paper, didn’t represent a huge challenge to the Power if it was on task.

Early in the match it appeared as if the Power hadn’t learned lessons from its loss to the Northern Knights, again wasting several hard-won forward line entries with inept finishing.

It took some excellent forward pressure to create the first goal for Nick Lowden but the Power again missed very gettable opportunities. The Ranges then rubbed salt into the wound with a relatively easy rebound goal.

A rare quick, long and direct forward thrust created a chance for Mitch Bentvelzen to snap truly and then, more of Power’s trademark forward pressure by captain Xavier Duursma and Benveltzen resulted in a clever goal by Tyrone Hayes.

Seemingly the Power were now on the right track but an unforced turnover gifted the Ranges with a simple goal to undo a lot of this good work.

To make things even worse, the Power the over used handball, seven in 20 metres, to give the Ranges another so that the Power only led by four points despite dominating much of the play during the quarter. It had created twice as many forward 50 entries as the Ranges but had wasted most of them with the sort of errors that had been costly the week before.

The Ranges kicked the first goal of the second term and then neither side played the sort of football that is necessary to reward themselves for the hard work in contests in defence and the midfield areas.

Noah Gown took a mark deep in the forward pocket after a rare quick, long and direct thrust and then kicked a stunner to get the lead back for the team. From the resultant centre bounce, Riley Baldi created a great clearance and Josh Smith kicked a clever goal.

It appeared as if the Power had finally “got the message” and some more forward pressure by Irving Mosquito gave Smith another chance to add to his goal tally.

By the long break the Power led by 15 points but, importantly, had been far more effective up forward for the latter part of the quarter. It still had further scope for more effective conversion but, coach Leigh Brown wold have been much more satisfied as he prepared the team for the vital third quarter.

Gippsland was in attack for much of the first five minutes of the quarter but didn’t trouble the scoreboard attendant.

Some outstandingly efficient ball use from defence resulted in two fine goals for Gown but the Ranges reminded Power it was still represented a challenge as they converted their first forward 50 entry. The Power hit back with their up-market form of ball use and this time Sam Flanders was on the receiving end of this positive play.

Benveltzen then kicked an incredible snap after he applied some excellent forward pressure and Gown snapped yet another after some fine ball use from deep in the side’s defence.

In the dying moments of the term, the Power again made excellent use of the ball from defence and Duursma finished it off with a terrific goal on the run.

After dominating play for more than 40 minutes, it appeared as if the Power had finally got its right game going. However, the Ranges weren’t ready to allow this to happen and reminded the Power that it needed to be on track all the time as it created unnecessary turnovers due to poor decisions and skills.

The Ranges then converted these “freebies” to rebound goals and reduced the Power lead to 34 points at the final break.

After a gentle “reminder” by coach Brown, the Power wet quick, long and direct from the centre via Mosquito and Gown and Baldi was able to finish their skilled ball use where it mattered. Noah had been the side’s major goal kicker but now became the provider as he went direct to enable Baldi to rove creatively off the resultant pack and kick his second.

As if inspired by his new role, Gown did it again and this time Bailey Patterson finished it off with his own brand of forward pressure.

The Power dominated all aspects of the game and, once again used the ball with stunning efficiency to allow Smith to kick his third for the match. In spite of this, the Ranges capitalised on rare opportunities to reduce the Power’s now comprehensive lead, but it still had time to add to its impressive score.

Outstanding ball use from defence, and then the midfield, created an uncommon chance for Bailey Beck to kick a goal and he did so with great relish.

By the final siren the Power had extended the margin to 46 points, but it was the way that it achieved it that was important.

After a less than impressive first half, they had really hit the target in the second half where they kicked eleven goals from 33 forward 50 entries. Four such entries per goal is seen as the required ratio and the Power had done even better for the first time this season for over half the match.

Analysis of key match statistics reflected the quality of the Power’s performance for much of the game. Obviously, the forward 50 entry conversion of 17 hoals from 66 entries indicated that the forwards had finally got their conversion process right. More importantly Gippsland had limited the Ranges to only 30 such opportunities to get the scoreboard ticking over.

This was achieved by the midfield unit being on task with the club’s trademark pressure as well as far more effective use of the ball than was demonstrated in the Knights match.

When the ball did enter the Ranges forward area, the Power defence was also super-efficient and they initiated many of the effective attacking passages of play with the right decisions and more precise ball skills by hand and foot.

Adding to theses impressive stats was the fact that the Power had its lowest tackle total for a long time. Normally this would be a negative factor, but closer analysis shows that it was a very positive reflection of their improved form.

The Power recorded fewer tackles because it eliminated the need to do so by having the ball in its possession for much of the match. This was the result of far more effective use of the ball in terms of accuracy, direction and distance and was the major reason for the coach’s pleasure at the end of the match.​

On a day when the Power defence was so effective when one-on-one, Kyle Reid took on and soundly defeated the Ranges’ best tall forwards.

Noah Gown was a constantly efficient avenue in attack for the team when either kicking goals or, importantly, setting them up. His 16 possessions, nine marks and four goals reflect his influcence on the match.

The return of captain Xavier Duursma to the on-ball unit was critical for the side as he initiated many of the positive passages of play from defence or midfield contests.

Tye Hourigan’s disciplined, team-oriented play to minimise the affectt of opponents was impressive, but he also generated a lot of attacking play with sound ball use.

Ryan Sparkes took on and soundly defeated dangerous opponents with excellent judgement, and a willingness to put himself into the tightest contests.

After a stunning performance against the Northern Knights, Irving Mosquito attracted a lot of attention but still managed to have a significant impact on the match. His uncanny combination of pace, skill and freakish decision making under pressure were evident in his many possessions when he won contested ball and then used it to maximum advantage.

Gippsland will have another development weekend, where the state squads will be in action and most other players will return to their home clubs unless coach Leigh Brown believes they would benefit from a break.

The Power will next play the highly-rated Sandringham Dragons at Morwell on Sunday, May 13.