Eagles hold off Mulwala after a last-quarter surge in the Murray Football League clash.GEORDIE COWAN June 30, 2014 3:35am
Echuca United moved back into second spot on the ladder after emerging victorious from its heavily contested clash against Mulwala on Saturday, 11.13 (79) to 9.11 (65).
Considering the number of injuries the team has had to deal with this year, it is a credit to the club and its players that it continues to find a way to win against its toughest opponents and remain near the top of the ladder.
In the grand final re-match and against in-form opponents Mulwala, the Eagles survived a last-quarter fightback from the visitors to prevail in difficult conditions by 14 points.
Liam Guinan was terrific throughout the match, often providing a valuable link through the midfield and that is where veteran Dean Moon was also impressive.
Bryn Barnes-Webb was another to show great commitment during the four quarters and Ash Kirchhofer had a big say in the result of the match, kicking three goals and enjoyed a good partnership with Tom Jackson in the ruck.
The Eagles’ defenders were also on top for most of the day, led by Ryan Prendergast and Brad Sanderson, who kept Chase Strawhorn to one goal.
Young players Ricki Waters and Tyler Lethlean were others to impress, while Farran Priest was lively early with two first-quarter goals, but did not come back onto the field after half-time after suffering a calf injury.
He joined his brother Rowan on the sidelines, who had withdrawn from the team after suffering discomfort during the team’s final warm-up, with Daniel Barwick the late replacement.
For Mulwala, Sean Robinson was the team’s best player for much of the day, but it was the exciting work of forward Will Farrer who almost pinched the game for the Lions after booting four last-quarter goals.
Farrer (five goals) made the most of his teammates’ efforts down the field to convert three of the goals from the goal-square.
Jarrod O’Shea, Dylan Robinson, Liam Russell and Dylan McNamara also played well for the visitors.
On a cloudy day with a bitingly cold cross-field wind which urged most of the spectators to retreat into their cars or the shed on the hill, the Eagles started in scintillating fashion with Kirchhofer and Farran Priest goaling in the first four minutes.
Lethlean provided a spark for the home side when he first came on but the game soon settled down to a contested battle between two of the top teams in the Murray Football League.
Sean Robinson finally kicked his team’s first goal in the 17th minute, but the Eagles looked comfortable with Daniel Edwards, Guinan, Prendergast and Josh Rankins playing well.
A Farran Priest goal after the siren gave the home team a deserved 22-6 quarter-time lead, but it was Sean Robinson who again reduced the margin at the start of the second term, getting his boot to a bouncing ball.
The margin was then cut back to four points when Strawhorn earned a free-kick for holding the ball.
Guinan replied with a terrific long set shot, before Kirchhofer booted a long goal after a strong mark.
By this stage the Eagles were well on top, having produced three times as many scoring shots and Cameron Parker saw the home team lead 44-20 at the long break after goaling off one step.
United’s pressure had played a big part in its advantage, barely letting the visitors have any uncontested possessions.
Farrer, who did not kick a goal in the first half, was the first to major after the break, but Kirchhofer restored the home team’s lead following a strong mark in a one-on-one contest.
In a tough term, the Eagles then went a game-high 27-points ahead after Barnes-Webb marked strongly while sandwiched by two Mulwala defenders, but a scrambled goal from Mitch Collins-Bye saw United lead 57-37 at the last break.
The Lions came out firing in the final quarter with Strawhorn and Farrer combining for the first goal with barely a minute on the board.
A bit of inspired play on the wing, which saw Mulwala twice desperately keep the ball in, then resulted in a penetrating Jacob Sampson run and led to another Farrer goal.
With all the momentum, Farrer then leapt unopposed in the goal-square again and suddenly the margin was back to one point after eight minutes.
However, despite their fight, the visitors never hit the lead.
The Eagles replied through a 30m snap by Clint Starkey and the team then slowed the pace of the game with a series of seven short passes down the wing.
From the ensuing throw-in in the forward pocket, Moon snapped a goal from the pack and the ball was shepherded through for a 13-point lead.
Farrer again reduced the lead after good work by Collins-Bye, but United then locked the ball into its forward half and should have kicked away to a match-winning lead earlier.
Waters was ultra-impressive in the second half and threw himself into many contests as the team restrained the visitors from escaping its defence, but kicked four consecutive behinds to see the lead at 11 points.
The responsibility ultimately fell to veteran Phil Hazelman to seal the victory, in his fourth game of the year, accurately converting from 45m.
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