Kearns’ powerful display wins the day

Loy Yang B Gippsland Power scored seven unanswered goals in the final quarter to record a memorable come-from-behind TAC Cup qualifying final win over rivals Dandenong Stingrays at Visy Park, Melbourne on Saturday.

Despite trailing by 34 points at three-quarter-time, the Power, led by Ben Kearns who kicked four of his five goals in the final quarter, snatched an unlikely 11-point victory to earn the week’s break.

The Power welcomed back from injury key forward Josh Scott and ruckman Jake Thomas to help Jack Leslie cope with the Stingrays’ highly rated big players.

However, captain Tim Membrey had to overcome a last minute fitness scare after suffering an injury early in last week’s game.

The Stingrays broke an early deadlock by exploiting some of the Power’s slackness on the rebound to record two goals in the first 10 minutes.

Dandenong look as though it had the ability to exploit any indecision when the Power went forward.

The Stingrays registered two more easy goals after some poor defensive decisions to take control of the game.

Despite upping their work rate the Power entered the first break goalless and 29-points behind.

From the opening bounce of the second quarter the Power took the ball forward and Nick Graham set up Matt Northe who opened Gippsland’s scoring.

However, the Stingrays exploited another turnover and replied with a goal.

A long and direct forward thrust by Anthony Tipungwuti set up Ben Kearns for the Power’s second, but the Stingrays were well on their way to establishing a huge lead going into the long break with two more goals.

Late in the quarter Graham again turned into a key playmaker with a long kick which set up Membrey for a vital goal.

In the final moments of the quarter, Liam Nash followed Graham’s example with another long kick to Membrey who converted his mark into a goal to reduce the margin to four goals at half-time.

The Power continued the hard work going into the third quarter when midfielder Wil Hams became the next provider for Membrey as he kicked another goal.

Instead of building on this positive play, the Power again wasted the ball up forward and gave the Stingrays easy goals on the rebound.

By the last change Gippsland was trailing by 34 points.

During the break coach Nick Stevens addressed the Power’s wastefulness up forward as they had kicked only one goal for every eight entries into the forward 50 meters, while the Stingrays had registered one for every three.

Some clever work from Josh Scott set up Hams for the opening goal of the final quarter and then Kearns made the most of a move up forward to snap a vital goal.

Defender Jack Johnstone played on after being awarded a free kick outside the forward 50m and kicked a terrific long goal to maintain the momentum that was favouring the Power.

Another penetrating kick up forward allowed Kearns to kick another goal off the ground, and suddenly the Stingrays were struggling to hold on to what had appeared to be an unbeatable lead.

Hams again got the ball into a dangerous position with a long kick and Membrey’s handball under pressure allowed Kearns to reduce the margin to less than a goal.

The Power were dominating the game but still needed to keep up the hardness if they were to pull off a crucial victory.

Once again the Power dominated the centre clearance and this time Northe went long to find Membrey who then handed Gippsland the lead with a stunning goal from deep in the forward pocket.

In the dying minutes of the match the Power were able to keep up the pressure on the Stingrays and Shannen Lange found Kearns who snapped his fourth for the quarter to put the game beyond doubt, and record one of Gippsland’s greatest ever victories.