Australia: Western Crusaders win VicBowl XXXIII, finish season undefeated

Gridiron Victoria’s VicBowl XXXIII was set – coming off an emotional win the week prior, the Melbourne University Royals (4) would take on the undefeated Western Crusaders (1) in a match that was always going to be an epic battle. Would the Royals be able to get through the “immovable defence” and would the Crusaders offence be on-form for the occasion?

Both teams travelled to MacPherson Park to face off in the final game for the Division 1 season. It was a quick start for the Crusaders, getting the ball right away and feeding the offensive unit, marching the ball some 80 yards down field.

Like previous games, the Crusaders had the score in their grasp, but for some great defence by Royals who had the right person, in the right position – intercepting the end zone pass. On came the Crusaders defence led by #99 JNala Saluni and #7 Kenneth Bennett. In their past two meetings in the regular season, the Crusaders defence have allowed 12 points overall (rd. 3 36-12, rd. 8 34-0). The Royals started moving the chains on the back of #26 Tokoa Tangatakino. However, it was short-lived, an errand pass from QB Dylan Letoga found its way in to the hands of #15 DJ Battistella and a 15 yard “Pick 6”. The ensuing PAT was no good.

Western Crusaders QB Andrew Healy Photo: Barend Photos

After that minor mistake made by the Royals, the Crusaders played an almost perfect ball game. Only giving up nine points to the Melbourne Uni Royals through four quarters of action (FG & TD), the Crusaders put together a solid offensive, defensive and even special team’s game.

Racking up 30 points in the game is not the teams’ biggest win so far this season, it coming in a VicBowl, makes it more special than any regular season score line. DJ Battistella, caught his second TD for the game, and fellow teammates #36 Tyson Garnham, #13 Aristotle Hua and #11 Harrison De Lai joining in on the fun with scores of their own; adding another great game to this teams’ spectacular season.

The final scoreboard read 30-9. Lead by head coach Craig Wilson, the Crusaders finish off the season with a 12-0 record and a for/against result being 465/69.

Royals QB Dylan Letoga Photo: Barend Photos

Crusaders coach Craig Wilson lauded the level-headed nature of his team:

“It’s amazing,” he said of the season. They’ve put in a massive year and to stay focused for that amount of time is a pretty massive achievement. The guys lifted to the occasion and believed in themselves.”

The standouts for the game were; Andrew Healy (QB), Tyson Garnham (RB), DJ Battistella (WR/DB), JNala Saluni (DL), Kenneth Bennett (LB), Samuel De Lai (DB), Brad Ferguson (P), Aristotle Hua (WR), Andrew Yeung (SS), Mark Clampitt (OL) and Harrison De Lai (RB)

Western Crusaders WR DJ Battistella Photo: Barend Photos

Crusaders Awards for the Season & VicBowl presented by Gridiron Victoria

# 36 Tyson Garnham

Overall MVP
# 36 Tyson Garnham

Defensive MVP
# 99 JNala Saluni

Defensive Line MVP
# 99 JNala Saluni

Coach of the Year
Craig Wilson