Natimuk beats Rupanyup after 17 years
By COLIN MacGILLIVRAYApril 15, 2013, midnight Article and Photo supplied by The Wimmera Mail Times
GOTCHA: Natimuk footballer Ashley Pekin wraps up Rupanyup’s Aaron Matthews in a tackle at the weekend. Natimuk scored its first victory over Rupanyup in 17 years with a 14.6 (90) to 10.11 (71) win. Picture: SAMANTHA CAMARRI
THE last time Natimuk beat Rupanyup, Adam Goodes was a fresh-faced teenager still playing football in Horsham, John Howard had only been prime minister for five months and the film Independence Day dominated the box office.
With a 14.6 (90) to 10.11 (71) win on Saturday, Natimuk ended a 17-year drought against the Panthers which stretched back to the 1996 Horsham District Football League grand final.
The Rams were outclassed by Rupanyup in that match and lost by 34 points, after previously beating the Panthers by 41 in that year's second semi-final.
Since that fateful semi-final, Natimuk had failed to register a win against Rupanyup until Saturday.
Rams coach Dylan Wright said it meant a lot to long-time supporters of the club to win such a hard-fought match against their old rivals.
"I'm lost for words after that performance," he said.
"Everything we trained our players to do - they did it - and I couldn't be prouder of them."
Both teams' backlines were resolute in the first quarter and kept the match tight and low-scoring, but Natimuk gained an edge in the midfield to put the first three goals on the board.
Jamie Elliott was a standout for the Rams, kicking two-goals in succession to help stave off a spirited Panthers fightback in the second quarter.
Natimuk pair Ash Pekin and Todd Stevenson also played key midfield roles, while teenager Kyle O'Connor impressed in his first senior outing.
David Lang found plenty of the ball up forward for Rupanyup, but had trouble converting in harsh wind conditions.
Last-minute Panthers call-up Jackson Falls kicked two goals after playing in the reserves earlier that day and ruckman Matt Tyler pushed forward to kick two of his own.
There were some tense moments in the final quarter for Natimuk, with Rupanyup closing the margin to within five points, but Damian Kilpatrick sealed the win with his third goal for the game.
Rupanyup coach Glenn Wyatt said it was a disappointing loss for his side.
"I thought we tried really well but we butchered the ball going forward," he said.
"It was one of the poorest games I've seen in terms of disposal.
"It's a game I think we should have won, but Natimuk was probably a bit more consistent than us."
Wright said his group was spurred on by some alleged sledging from the Rupanyup huddle at quarter time.
He said he believed the Rams had been hungrier in the contests.
"We definitely deserved the win," he said.
"I thought we wanted it more and attacked the contests harder and you could see the boys weren't going to give up."
Wright said optimism at the club was soaring to new heights after the win and the Rams now believed they were a genuine chance to play finals this season.
He said games against Taylors Lake, Harrow-Balmoral and Swifts would give them a good indication of where they stood in the competition.