Covering the Goulburn and Murray valleys

Murray Bombers fall to Benalla

Benalla was too strong for Echuca on the weekend, defeating the Murray Bombers by 59 points.

LUKE MCMANUS May 5, 2014 3:05am

Echuca’s Matthew Pollock spears his kick forward.

Simon Buckley’s successful return to Echuca’s midfield was overshadowed by the Murray Bombers’ 59-point loss to Benalla on Saturday.

Buckley was a standout in the team’s 16.16(112) to 8.5(53) defeat, finishing his first match of the season unscathed and seemingly unhampered by hamstring issues which had sidelined the on-baller before the weekend.

Echuca coach Andrew Briggs said the 2013 best and fairest winner led from the front despite little support.

‘‘Bucks is really important to our side, in terms of leadership and educating our younger guys,’’ Briggs said.

‘‘He was down in form in terms of what he’s capable of but that will come with more game time and when the likes of him, Matty Pollock and Tom Stevens get some support from the blokes around them.’’

Buckley shone alongside Jordan Florance and Joel Magnabosco in a relatively disappointing afternoon for Echuca at Victoria Park.

Florance marked strongly and was a presence across half-back, dishing off many times to Magnabosco, whose superior decision-making and ball use impressed the first-year coach once again.

‘‘Our blokes need to take a leaf out of his book,’’ Briggs said of Magnabosco.

Trailing by 16 points at quarter-time, Benalla ran away with the game in the second term, booting five goals to one to take a 45-point lead into half-time.

Playing catch-up football has not been Echuca’s strong point in season 2014 and, against the undefeated Saints, struggled to claw its way back despite an improved showing.

Benalla edged even further ahead with a four-goal third term with Will Martiniello and Lachlan Smith running rampant.

Nick Warnock and Shayne McKean kicked three goals each while Liam Wilkinson and Pollock kicked two goals apiece for Echuca.

‘‘We could really learn from Benalla in how they use the ball and spread,’’ Briggs said.

‘‘They showed exactly how you rebound after the ball’s turned over.’’

Echuca squared the ledger in the last quarter which gave Briggs some positive reinforcement ahead of the team’s split-round bye.

It has been a tough start to the season, with Echuca playing four of last year’s finalists to open the season, with another tough ask against Shepparton United when the season resumes.

Briggs is riding the storm, hoping gradual improvement and a ‘‘consistent four-quarter effort’’ will eventually yield the team’s first win since round nine, 2013.

Nothing separated Echuca and Benalla in the reserves with the scores locked at 8.7(55) to 7.13(55) by the final siren at Victoria Park.

After taking the lead in the second quarter, Echuca looked poised to run away to its first win of the season after enjoying a nine-point lead at the final change.

The Saints however upped their pressure and kicked 2.4 to 1.1 in the last to draw the match.

Brad Jones and Dylan Keely kicked two each for the Murray Bombers, while George Preston was judged best afield for the home side.

For Benalla, Peter Symes finished with two goals with Dylan Pastuszka and Sam Creamer proving the difference.

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