Echuca United has moved into the Murray Football League grand final after beating Mulwala at Echuca South on Saturday.By Geordie Cowan
Echuca United qualified for only its second ever grand final after defeating Mulwala by 50 points in the Murray Football League second semi-final on Saturday.
Playing at Echuca South, the Eagles were in control for much of the contest and ultimately won 20.13
Emotions were running high in the away change rooms following the victory as about 100 fans and club officials crowded into the room to cheer the team in and sing the song.
The win was even more impressive for United considering small forward Nathan Bottomley injured his left shoulder in the first quarter, but it was the team’s defence against the high-scoring Lions which was an important factor.
League-leading goal kicker Chase Strawhorn did not have a shot at goal until the last couple of minutes in the third term thanks to the close attention of Jake Guinan, as the Lions scored their third-lowest total of the year — all of which have come against United.
While all members of the Eagles defence impressed, the team was well led by players around the ground.
Co-captain Rowan Priest was terrific in the midfield all day, capping his performance off with the last goal of the game, while Cameron Parker was impressive at half-forward.
He and Guy Campbell had each kicked four goals to half-time — Campbell finishing with six — while ruckman Clayton Zanella produced an imposing display.
Duane Hueston kicked two goals among a typically industrious game, Bryn Barnes-Webb’s quick feet in the midfield pushed the ball forward many times and Scott Beattie dispelled any questions of his fitness with a good four-quarter game which included two goals in the third term.
Justin Saker was another to justify his position in the team with two goals, while Liam Guinan worked hard all day in what was only his seventh senior appearance for the year.
There was little to be pleased about for Mulwala who, aside from the opening 10 minutes, was unable to gather much traction in its fight.
The Lions could not stem the bleeding, conceding six goals in each of the second and fourth terms, with only defenders Daniel Clarke, Josh Slattery, Keegan Oliver and Dean Bigger listed among the team’s best.
On what was a beautiful day with plenty of sun and a two-goal breeze favouring the bowling club end, Campbell kicked the first goal of the day off the ground.
Mulwala increased its pressure to take a 14-point lead with goals to Sean Robinson, Tom Wilson and Cameron Symes, dominating out of the middle, but suddenly United pounced with goals to Bottomley, Parker and Campbell as the Eagles led 33-27 at the first break.
A tight start to the quarter saw the margin at seven points with 12 minutes gone, before the Eagles dominated the second half of the term to go into the long break 32 points clear.
United showed little signs of having three weeks without game time and re-adjusted its game style well again into the breeze in the third term, with only a couple of late Mulwala goals a down side as the Eagles led 94-69 at the final break.
Two goals to Campbell and another to Hueston sealed the Eagles’ win as they ran out 50-point winners.
The team now has a chance to enjoy its win, before preparing itself for its first grand final since 2006 on September 21.
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