Roos redeemed against Baton Rouge Tigers and Ohio Valley River Rats, improve to 6-2
The Nashville Kangaroos were 4-2 with just four USAFL games remaining before Nationals, and two of those were on Saturday, August 8. The Baton Rouge Tigers and the Ohio Valley River Rats made their return trips to Nashville for a three-team tournament. With the two teams responsible for the Kangaroos’ only two losses in 2015 both at Elmington Park on the same day, it presented a unique opportunity for Roo redemption.
2015 has been an uneven year. An enormous win over Atlanta was followed by a sluggish start against Ohio Valley, surrendering the cherished John Harrell Memorial Cup. An historic win in Columbus and a fierce win over bitter rivals the Chicago Swans were followed by an humbling eleven goal loss to Baton Rouge. When run to the National Championship Tournament began after the summer break, and nobody knew whether the 11th ranked USAFL team were pretenders or contenders. The Nashville Kangaroos had something to prove, and they had to get those Rats and Tigers off their backs before they could move on.
At the birthplace of footy in the South, Elmington Park, the Kangaroos first faced the Ohio Valley River Rats. The Kangaroos had only 40 minutes to deal with the River Rats, and they knew a slow start like their previous meeting would be difficult to overcome. The River Rats won the toss and elected to kick with the breeze, but the Kangaroos had the slightly downhill West End Avenue goals. Ohio Valley scored an early goal, but the Kangaroos benefited from some uncharacteristically undisciplined River Rats allowing two 50 yard penalties, with James Mitchell and Jesse Wells each allowed a goal. The Kangaroos ended the first half with a slight lead, 2.6 (18) to 2.1 (13).
The second half was more lopsided. The Kangaroos were able to keep the ball in their scoring half, but inaccurate kicking and some desperate defense from Ohio Valley produced another flurry of behinds. With the Roo middle and defense repelling all River Rat advances, the Kangaroos ended the match with a comfortable victory.
Nashville Kangaroos 4.13 (37)
Ohio Valley River Rats 2.4 (16)
Goals: James Mitchell 2, Jesse Wells, Nathan Caldwell.
After a 10 minute rest, the Nashville Kangaroos were on the field against the Baton Rouge Tigers. The Tigers were too fast and too relentless when the two teams met only weeks earlier in the Louisiana heat, but the Kangaroos were warmed up and ready to go on this relatively cool Saturday.
Again the visiting team had the scoring end to start, and the Tigers were quick to score. Mitchell kicked another two, while Tony “Pablo” Niknejad and James “JD” Duty also began to influence the game and each grabbed a goal. Despite these strong efforst, the Tigers finished the first half a goal in the lead, kicking 5.3 (33) to the Kangaroos 4.2 (26).
The Tigers could almost taste the sweetness of defeating the Kangaroos at home. They soon extended their lead, and the Kangaroos found themselves needing three goals to overtake the visitors. With minutes to go, Nashville was trailing by two points when Niknejad banged in another goal to take the lead. With the Kangaroos leading by less than a goal and seconds remaining, the rucks leaped at the ball knowing that another goal would be the deciding score of the match. The ball squirted out to the spectator’s side of the field, and it was the untiring Mitchell running down the wing who grasped control. The siren sounded just as he dropped the ball onto his foot, and the final kick of the game sailed magnificently 50 yards for a Nashville goal.
Nashville Kangaroos 9.3 (57)
Baton Rouge Tigers 7.5 (47)
Goals: Tony Niknejad 4, James Mitchell 3, James Duty, Ross Flemming.