Benalla Saints' reserves fell short of a grand final berth after a 28-point loss to Shepparton United.By Monique Freer
Benalla Saints’ reserves fell one game short of a grand final berth after losing to Shepparton United by 28 points on Sunday.
Despite being level with the Demons at half-time, the Saints were overrun by their opposition and were unable to regain control of the match.
Although gutted by the loss, coach Sam Little said his overwhelming emotion was pride for his side.
‘‘I’m proud of coming from bottom of the ladder and winning one game to make it to a preliminary final,’’ he said.
‘‘It’s a massive effort; the boys have been awesome all year. There’s no anger or that sort of stuff. I’m proud of them all and happy for what the group has achieved.’’
Tim Ryan, Alex Hay and Sam Gladstone played superb games for the Saints, and applied strong pressure across the ground. Captain Duncan McKenzie battled hard all day, while Jayden Guppy and Matt Levy also gave strong performances.
The Saints got off to a strong start and trailed by just one point at quarter-time. Brett Pollard and Jamie Smith tackled hard across the ground, and both teams lifted their intensity to match the pressure of the preliminary final.
Quick goals to Hay and McKenzie got the Saints in front early in the second quarter, but they were unable to put the Demons away and went into the main break with scores level.
However, the third quarter was a one-sided affair in which the Swans kicked five unanswered goals and kept the Saints scoreless.
‘‘I think our foot skills probably weren’t up to par today and we just got outplayed by a better football side on the day,’’ Little said after the match.
Two final-quarter goals were not enough to resurrect the Saints, who fell agonisingly short of a chance at premiership glory.
‘‘I’m disappointed that we at least couldn’t have gone that other step and played in the big game next week,’’ Little said.
‘‘There’s been so many kids that have stood up, I think we’ve had five or six from the thirds, all the players that came across from other clubs have really made our environment really good, and I think if we can stick together and hang on a bit there’s some really good stuff, a bit like the seniors, in the near future.’’
While the season is over for the seniors and the reserves, the Saints’ under-18 side will meet Kyabram in this Sunday’s grand final.
The game will kick off at 9.15
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