BENALLA survived an early Echuca onslaught on Saturday to take a 13-point win in what was a blow to the Murray Bombers’ finals hopes.
At Victoria Park, the home side came out firing but couldn’t stay with the Saints as they took control of the contest after quarter-time.
Echuca is now a game and percentage outside the top six after Rochester beat Shepparton United by 81 points in other round 13 action.
Echuca coach Andrew Briggs was disappointed his side didn’t bring the work rate needed to beat the league’s best sides.
‘‘We were lucky to be that close in the end,’’ he said.
‘‘We started well and got some scores on the board which was exactly what we wanted.
‘‘But they kicked 5.7 in the second quarter and had more than 30 inside 50s to half-time. They were always getting opportunities it was just whether or not they took them.’’
The Bombers lifted in the second half but never led, the poor second quarter too much to overcome.
‘‘It was too little, too late; we haven’t had a quarter like that, if you exclude the Kyabram game, for two months,’’ Briggs said.
‘‘It was disappointing to see that again because we haven’t done that since the Rochester game.’’
In a vital game for its season, Echuca couldn’t have asked for a better start with Simon Buckley winning a quick clearance out of the middle, Ben Costello gathering for the first goal within 20 seconds.
And Costello didn’t need to wait long for a second goal, winning a free with a quality tackle and slotting the goal for a 13-0 start.
Benalla worked into the game with goals from Nick Warnock and James Martyn, but Echuca had the answers through Buckley and Jordan Florance to lead by 18 points at quarter-time.
The Murray Bombers’ pressure was fantastic with little clean possession for Benalla in the first term.
And it continued in a bright start to the second, but misses in front of goal proved costly for them as they failed to extend their lead as best they could.
The Saints made them pay, taking control and capitalising on a 32-18 inside 50 count with two goals in a minute to Jordan Wolff to take the lead.
And after Florance missed a golden opportunity in front of goal, they went coast to coast to punish the Murray Bombers and lead by six points at the half.
‘‘Their ball movement was really quick, they changed lanes and made switches to the open side of the ground,’’ Briggs said.
‘‘We were too reactive and too slow and they showed why they’re above us on the ladder.’’
In a competitive third term, Echuca got back into the game but again missed chances with 2.4 for the quarter.
The game sparked to life when a Benalla player decked Amos Farrell after he kicked Echuca within a goal, many players involved in the skirmish, lifting the intensity of the already high-pressure game.
But Benalla was first to the ball in the last quarter and did enough to hold on for an important win; Brody Webster’s fifth goal the sealer 21 minutes in.
The Bombers were without gun ruck Kane Morris, who hurt his quad during the week’s training.
Tyler Phillips stepped up to the role, battling brilliantly throughout the game, involved in a lot of the play.
Sam Toulmin also missed after a quad injury in the warm-up, reserves player Caleb Smith making an unexpected seniors debut after playing a full game in reserves.
Liam Wilkinson was important in the performance, sweeping up many Benalla attacking moves and setting the Murray Bombers into attack from his defensive role.
While a dent to hopes of playing finals, Echuca has winnable games in the next fortnight against Mooroopna and the Shepparton Swans.
If it can take care of games against lower-ranked opposition, the round 17 clash with Rochester shapes as potentially the decider for which of the teams will make the top six.
Briggs said the effort had to better in the coming weeks to earn a place in finals.
‘‘It’s simple; we need to show the mentality and attitude we did in the Euroa game,’’ he said.
‘‘That attitude, willingness and desperation to keep in a game individually, that’s what wins games.’’