Deniliquin stunned top-placed Finley in an enthralling Murray Football League contest on Saturday.SHAUN CONNOR July 21, 2014 4:05am
Even after winning seven matches in a row there was some uncertainty over Deniliquin’s spot in the six, but on Saturday it emphatically stamped itself as premiership threat.
And it was the way the Rams went about securing the win — a landmark one against top-placed Finley — that was most impressive.
Threatened in the third when the visitors got a run on at Hardinge St Oval, the Rams responded with a three-goals-to-none final quarter to seal their eighth Murray Football League win in a row.
Another blinder from miracle workers Todd Gallagher and Oliver Draffin made the visit extra hard for the Cats, while coach Troy Bartlett’s two level-headed goals went along way to disenchanting the front-runners.
Final score: Deniliquin 11.11 (77) def. Finley 7.12 (54).
Big man Tim Robertson and runners Lachy Small, Reid Crowe and Marcus Jackson were missing from the Cats’ line-up on Saturday, but an under-strength win isn’t uncommon for a genuine contender.
Finley had its chances but ultimately buckled under the intense pressure the Rams threw at both the footy and the man.
‘‘I was pleased with how we finished the game off, particularly when we lost a rotation five minutes into the game,’’ Bartlett said.
‘‘Blokes stood up in the final quarter when they needed to, and carried us over the line which was great.
‘‘At the start of the year when we were in those situations the result went the wrong way for us. Now the results are falling our way.
‘‘There were individuals who played well, however, the pleasing thing was that everyone performed their role and played well as a team.’’
With clear skies shining down, Finley scored the first goal of the match before Gallagher marked in the goal square to register the Rams’ first and kick-start a captivating individual performance.
The Cats had two more scoring shots than Deniliquin in the opening quarter, but couldn’t capitalise, and held a two-point lead at the first break.
Both sides were forced to activate their sub when players went down early in the match.
Rams wingman Tom Druitt dislocated his elbow within five minutes of the start and was replaced by Jonty Tubb, while Finley’s Grant-Patrick Smith came on 20 minutes into the first term when Ollie Ford injured his calf.
The injury woes continued for the Cats, who lost Tom Doyle to a hamstring injury in the second quarter.
From there Deniliquin booted 4.4 to create itself some breathing space at half-time, leading by 19 points.
Tall forward Brett Macdonald converted from a set shot to start the third stanza off with a bang for the Rams, but Finley quickly responded with a goal of its own to stay in the contest.
Three more majors for the term had the Cats up and about and trailing by just seven points at the last change.
But the blue and gold riposte hit hard in the final quarter and was capped off by returning skipper Anthony Bull, who kicked a sealer in his first senior game for the season.
Daniel Jordan and Jack Tyndall were brilliant in defensive roles for the Rams, while running machines Darcy Bell and Clay Howe were major contributors.
Stephen Patten and Nick Robertson formed a strong Cats backline, and Levi Middleton and Ned Morrison fought hard in the middle.
Finley coach Damian Sexton said his side needed to be on its toes with such a tightly contested top-six.
‘‘It was a bit of a wake-up call for us,’’ Sexton said.
‘‘At the end of the day we had our chances. To their credit in the last quarter they overran us.’’
The eight-match winning streak is the Rams’ best since they won eight consecutive in the middle of their premiership-winning 2011 season.
Now just one game separates Deniliquin from the Cats’ top spot, but such is the evenness of the competition that seventh-placed Mulwala is just two wins from pole position.
In the reserves, Deniliquin squandered its chances to build a strong lead early in the match, kicking 1.7 to Finley’s 1.1 in the first quarter.
The match was almost goal-for-goal after that, with just three points separating the two at the last change.
However, Finley ran away with a 12.5 (77) to 6.13 (49) win after booting four goals in the final term.
Josh Perizzolo was the Rams’ standout player, kicking three goals in a strong performance, while Phil Murrowood kicked six for Finley.
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