WFL - The Ararat Rats have claimed another Wimmera Football League scalp, defeating Minyip/Murtoa by 19 points at Alexandra Oval on Saturday.
The 20.9 (129) to 17.8 (110) victory continues Ararat's amazing run of form, which has seen it win all matches in the opening month of the season to sit atop the senior ladder.
The round four win also sets up an intriguing contest this weekend against the league's other undefeated team the Horsham Demons. Rats' joint-coach David Hosking said that match is where he and Andrew Louder will be able to fully grasp how much their team has improved on 2013.
"We won four games last year and have now won four games this year, so until we win another match we technically haven't done any better," he said.
Ararat was a little sluggish to start the match on Saturday as the Burras fought back from an early deficit to hold a lead of eight points by quarter time.
The Rats were challenged to respond by their coaches and wasted no time closing the margin in the second term, with full-forward Liam Cavanagh taking a good contested mark and converting for his second of the afternoon.
Minyip/Murtoa was quick to reply, which was a trend throughout the match, scoring the next two majors.
There was fast ball movement during the quarter by both teams, with defender Brady Miller pushing up the ground and patrolling well for the Rats, while Harry Ganley also saw plenty of the ball as the home side hit back with consecutive goals of their own.
Hosking said several skill errors proved costly for Ararat, with the Burras again managing to kick away.
“Surprisingly they played a very similar style to us I thought and in that first half they played it better,” he said.
“They forced turn overs across our half-forward line, rebounded through the corridor and were very specific about where they placed it.
“We didn’t execute anywhere near enough defensive pressure, particularly through the midfield and that allowed them to deliver it cleanly into their forwards.”
Momentum swung again in favour of the Rats just prior to halftime, with goals to Chris Jerram and Cavanagh reducing the margin to a straight kick.
Hosking said he felt going into the main break that Ararat had room for improvement, while the visitors looked to have reached their peak.
“That was my read of it. I didn’t think we’d played close to our best and it looked as though they were probably at theirs,” he said.
“So to only be a goal down at halftime, to me that was a positive.”
Just as it has in recent weeks, the Rats’ fitness proved a critical element to closing out the match in the second half.
Despite Minyip/Murtoa scoring the first two goals of the third term to push the margin out to 18 points, Ararat didn’t panic and continued to stick to its structures.
Midfi elders Jack Ganley and Dan Mendes continually pushed back to give their defenders assistance and as the Rats began to win the centre clearances the flood gates opened, with the side kicking seven of the next nine majors to wrestle back the lead by three quarter time.
Hosking said Zach Louder was outstanding in the ruck and forced his Burras’ counterpart Kieran Delahunty to change the way he played just to remain competitive in the hitouts.
“The thing that impressed me with Zach stems from his fitness, his second and third efforts and the ability to think on his feet was great,” he said.
“This guy Delahunty was all the talk and don’t get me wrong, he is a good footballer, but I think Chips (Louder) worked him out.”
The Rats had their biggest lead of the match — 21 points — two minutes into the fourth quarter courtesy of a Jacob Bates’ goal, but the Burras refused to yield and a five minute burst saw them edge back in front with three quick majors.
With the game in the balance Ararat lifted its intensity across all lines, with goals to Aaron Searle, Cavanagh, Harry Ganley and Beau Cosson sealing the match.
The Rats’ fi nished with 10 individual goal kickers, led by Cavanagh with five majors.
“The great part about Liam is that he can literally play just about anywhere,” Hosking said.
“(To have 10 players kick one goal or more) it is really pleasing because if you compare the last time we played Minyip/Murtoa where we kicked 1.4 for the match, we just didn’t have the depth going forward.”
The fitness of ruckmen, Louder (groin) and Dan Vearing (knee), will be monitored this week as Ararat looks to continue its unblemished run against the Demons.
“There’s really no reason why (the winning streak) can’t continue,” Hosking said.
“The only thing is, we may be a bit inexperienced in the ruck stocks if those two don’t come up, but that is part of football. That’s why we try and develop a senior list of 30-plus players to deal with these issues.”