By Hayley Wildes
In the opening weekend of the 2019 NAB League (formerly TAC Cup) season, the Gippsland Power and Dandenong Stingrays both scored nail-biting round 1 wins on the road.
The Power locked horns with the Murray Bushrangers at RAMS Arena on Sunday in what turned out to be an epic battle.
With both teams trading goals, the Power found themselves three points adrift at the main break, 6.6 (42) to 6.3 (39). The first half was dominated by Kyle Dunkley – brother of Western Bulldog midfielder Josh Dunkley.
Kyle was simply superb, scoring three goals in the second term to ensure the Power kept the scoreboard ticking over.
The third quarter was more of the same in regards to a tight contest and both teams fighting hard. Despite kicking against a strong breeze, Gippsland skipped away in the middle stages of the quarter, through goals to Mason McGannon and Sam Berry, but the Bushrangers responded late in the term to take a five-point lead, 9.9 (63) to 9.5 (58), into the fourth quarter.
The final term was an epic contest as both teams cracked in and to the Bushrangers credit, their defence stood tall for much of the term as the Power launched attack after attack.
Finally, with just minutes remaining, Harrison Pepper delivered the match-winning goal – the only major of the term – to see the Power come away with a 10.9 (69) to 9.12 (66) win.
Kyle Dunkley (three goals) was best afield, while Sam Berry, Ryan Sparkes and Harrison Pepper (two goals) were impressive.
Meanwhile, the Dandenong Stingrays kicked off their premiership defence with a six-point win over the Greater Western Victorian (GWV) Rebels at MARS Stadium on Saturday.
The Stingrays looked in complete control, possessing a 36-point lead halfway through the third quarter, but the Rebels came flying home to give the Rays scare.
Owning a 23-point advantage heading into the fourth quarter, Dandenong managed to hold the fast-finishing GWV team out as Lachlan Williams, Jack Toner, Clayton Gay (two goals) and Jai Nanscawen (one crucial last quarter goal) kicked off their 2019 NAB League campaigns in fine form.
The Rays accuracy in front of goal ultimately proved the difference as they came away with a 13.8 (86) to 11.14 (80) win.