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Echuca United win first game of 2014 season

Tongala pushed Echuca United in Saturday's opening Murray Football League match, but was unable to topple last year's premier.

GEORDIE COWAN April 14, 2014 3:41am

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Echuca United was made to work hard for the win in a high-pressured match away against Tongala on Saturday.

The Blues set the game alight with a scintillating first quarter, before the Eagles slowly exerted their influence to run away with the 16.13(109) to 11.9(75) win.

Led by Priest brothers Farran (four goals) and Rowan (three goals), United kicked six goals to one in the final quarter to ensure the victory.

Liam Guinan worked hard throughout the day and new players Rulla Kelly-Mansell and Toby Gilmour impressed with their work rate.

Ryan Prendergast led a solid defensive unit, bolstered by returning brothers Brad and Luke Sanderson from long-term injuries, while youngster Tyler Lethlean, Bryn Barnes-Webb and ruckman Clayton Zanella also put in solid efforts.

Tongala is sure to challenge most teams throughout the Murray Football League season with its new-look side.

With a bunch of senior recruits and players returning from injury, the Blues have greater depth than last year and it showed throughout Saturday’s match.

Daryl Harrison was superb in defence, mopping up many attacks and was ably helped by Stephen Townsend and Adam Lovison, while recruit Elijah Edwards provided some class and James Cullum had a consistent match.

Jordan Souter provided some impetus, especially in the first half, while Andrew Reid completed a solid performance with four goals.

Tongala started the match in superb fashion, booting six goals to two in the opening term.

Souter kicked the first goal of the match, before Tiwi Bomber recruit Bronson Mungatopi found a bit of space to convert.

Rowan Priest gave the Eagles an immediate reply, before good dash from Connor Cowley — coupled with some good shepherds — resulted in the sharp looking Edwards slotting a goal from 50m.

The Blues’ pressure was fantastic and, a bit of class from Corey Atkinson-Harlen, who worked his way through a pack to snap a goal, followed by a long bomb to coach David Newman, saw the team lead 32-9.

Daniel Edwards replied for the visitors, but a late goal to Reid saw the margin remain at 23 points at the first break in a quarter which saw Tongala lead inside 50s 13-7 and lay 26 tackles.

Newman urged his players to keep the pressure on and in the early stages of the second term the team responded.

United scored the first goal after a centre from Kelly-Mansell found Sandy Lawrence — becoming the fifth debutant from both sides to goal — before the goal of the match re-established the margin.

Reid gathered the skidding ball low at centre half-forward before turning and kicking the ball in front of Edwards, who used his blistering pace to collect the ball and finish with the outside of his right foot.

A great chase and tackle by Donald Mungatopi, who consequently spotted up Darin Ohlsen gave the Blues a 28-point lead eight minutes into the second term.

Unfortunately, the Blues then saw their lead reduced quickly thanks to poor discipline and increased United pressure.

Two 50m penalties resulted in goals to Barnes-Webb and Rowan Priest, with the captain then snapping a classy goal.

When Kelly-Mansell converted next, the Eagles had kicked four goals in four minutes to reduce the margin to four points.

The pace of the game then slowed and Tongala held on to a one-point lead at the long break, 50-49.

United took control of the match in the third term but its inaccuracy saw the Eagles lead by just five points at the final break.

The quarter was highlighted by some more good play from both teams, with Cullum goaling from 55m after a Reid chase and tackle, before Farran Priest shone as he took the ball from the centre to bounce twice, evade one opponent and slot a goal on the run from 40m.

A heavy but fair Tongala bump on 17-year-old substitute Ash Cemino also resulted in a lot of players coming together and while a couple of players started to lose their cool, Reid remained calm in front of goal to slot two for the quarter.

United coach Scott Beattie urged his players to ‘‘lift through the gears’’ in the final term and the team went on to seal the game in the first 10 minutes with four consecutive goals.

Farran Priest, who was unsuccessful in going for a speccy in the second term, landed one in the last quarter and converted the shot.

Reid kicked his fourth of the game later in the term — marking 11 straight goals for the Blues — before Lethlean and Tom Jackson sealed the 34-point win.

Ricki Waters booted six goals as Echuca United eased to a 12.7(79) to 5.7(37) win in the reserves.

Zayden Molluso and Pat Tarrant also impressed as the Eagles won every quarter of the match.

Nick Mellington, Darin Ohlsen (three goals) and Daniel Humphreys were the best for Tongala.

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