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Bushrangers dig deep to conquer Pioneers

After running out of legs and players in the final term Murray Bushrangers have opened their TAC Cup season with a fighting victory over Bendigo Pioneers.

DAMEN FRANCIS March 31, 2014 4:15am

David Mennen lays a tackle on Pioneer Fergus Payne.


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A final-quarter fadeout took the shine of an otherwise outstanding performance, as Murray Bushrangers held on for an eight-point win in their opening game of the TAC Cup season on Saturday.

Shepparton turned out a glorious day for the club’s first and only appearance at Deakin Reserve for the year.

However, while the sunny and dry conditions suited the Bushrangers for the most part, they almost worked against them later in the day, as the heat left the home side vulnerable to the smaller, harder-running Pioneers after three quarter-time.

Forty-one points up at the final change, the Bushrangers struggled to match the tempo and pressure that had earned their lead and the Pioneers were afforded room to move and won the final term six goals to one.

But time ran out and the Bushrangers claimed a deserved victory.

‘‘I’m 75 per cent happy, because we played three really good quarters and if we kept going like that we’ve won the game by a lot more,’’ coach Darren Ogier said.

‘‘We knew some blokes would struggle to get through the game and we were hoping we could cover them with rotations, but we lost a couple of boys through injury which made that difficult.

‘‘A couple of blokes are coming off limited preparation and they had to play more game time than we anticipated.

‘‘It was lucky we put ourselves in such a good position in the first three quarters.’’

David Mennen sat out much of the second half with an ankle injury, captain Nick Mellington was limited in the last quarter with what appeared to be a groin issue and Brody Webster and Nathan Drummond also looked hampered.

Dougal Howard kicked the goal-of-the-day, gathering the footy deep in the forward pocket with his back to goal and snapping truly from 35m out.

Mitch Mahady was often the deepest of the forwards and he finished with four goals, but the one percenter work of the likes of Jake Marshall, Brady Pritchard, Al Clarke and Murray Waite that stood out most.

Benalla forward, Webster, put in his best performance in a Bushrangers jumper, kicking an early goal and playing a hand in several others, 196cm ruckman Isaac Muller dominated the stoppages and Dan Howe generated plenty of rebound from defence.

In the end, the Pioneers recorded more scoring shots, but it was hardly indicative of the overall pattern of play.

Despite struggling to run the game out, Ogier was delighted with the endeavour.

‘‘You can’t give any more than when you’re cramping up and walking like a robot man and that’s what quite a few of the boys were doing,’’ he said.

‘‘We know the style Bendigo plays, so once we got on top of that and got it inside to our forwards they were pretty effective.’’

Earlier in the day, the Bushrangers secured a comfortable win against the Pioneers 12.10 (82) to 4.8 (32) in the opening round of the Victorian Country Under-16 Championships.

Mooroopna forward Jayk Papoulis was a standout with four goals, while Cats clubmate Jy Simpkin, Nathalia’s Ned Nihill and Notre Dame’s Harry Boyd were among the best.

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