ECHUCA’S senior footballers couldn’t quite complete a miraculous comeback in a loss to lowly Mooroopna in round 14 of the Goulburn Valley League.
Down by 37 points at the final break, the Murray Bombers clicked into gear in the last with overwhelming attacking football, but fell two points short after missing a series of chances in the dying minutes.
Most notably, Ruory Kirkby, who dominated the final term up forward, missed a set shot from the pocket with one minute to play.
Murray Bombers’ coach Andrew Briggs lamented the first three quarters which saw Mooroopna dominate all aspects of the game.
‘‘It’s disappointing we didn’t match Mooroopna’s intensity, they tackled really well and their intent to impose themselves at the contest was really clear from the beginning,’’ he said.
‘‘The issue was our inability to deny the opposition, across the board it was really clear we weren’t prepared to play a defensive brand of footy.’’
Briggs said the side had been shattered post-game after almost stealing an unlikely win.
‘‘The mood after the game, the players were dejected, and really disappointed they’d played poorly,’’ he said.
‘‘There were lots of skill errors, but from a coaching point of view I’m not too worried about that, I’m focused on the decision-making, and the unwillingness to defend the game.
‘‘In the last quarter we had plenty of ball, and it was really amazing we even had the opportunity to win the game.’’
But the real story for the Murray Bombers was the first three quarters of football, where the side looked lifeless against a Mooroopna side entering the game with one win.
From the opening bounce, the Cats controlled the play and looked damaging when going forward.
Power forward Romain Grenville capitalised on his side’s ferocious tackling pressure with two goals in the first quarter, the Cats trapping the ball in their forward half to lead 37-10 at quarter-time.
Things had to change for Echuca to avoid a humiliating loss, and after Thomas Crosbie kicked the first of the second term for the Cats, the Murray Bombers
began to make some play and goals to Kirkby and Darby Henderson got them within three goals.
But Clint Riley goaled late from a free kick, Mooroopna 24 points ahead at the half with plenty of work to do for the Murray Bombers.
The Cats edged the third quarter and seemed destined for a comfortable win at the final break, but the Murray Bombers wouldn’t go down without a fight.
With their season potentially on the line, Briggs called on his side to take the game on at every opportunity, with nothing to lose already trailing by six goals.
And things clicked from the off with three quick goals, two to Kirkby and the other to Jordan Florance as the Murray Bombers’ forward line looked infinitely more dangerous than it had all day.
Within three goals, Grenville steadied for the Cats at the other end to extend the margin but they looked far from safe when Echuca attacked.
Florance got a boot to a ball mid-air to cut the lead to nine, and the next forward entry Nathan Bottomley gathered the ball, steadied and goaled to put them within three points with little time to play.
But the miracle wasn’t to be, Kirkby’s set shot pushed just wide to see the Cats hold on for a thrilling two-point win.
Briggs said the overwhelming feeling from the game was frustration.
‘‘It’s complete frustration for the playing group and myself,’’ he said.
‘‘We had a strong team meeting (on Sunday morning), we went through a couple of things we don’t ever want to see again. Things like not being strong in the contest and very clear ball-watching.’’
Kirkby’s contested marking was brilliant in the final term and he was among the Echuca best with four goals for the day.
Missing many key players such as Daniel Willis, Kane Morris and Sam Toulmin, the club’s TAC Cup talents stepped up in a big way highlighting the bright future for the team.
‘‘Darby had 35 possessions in a great game, Mitch Kemp made an impact, Jobee Warde was pretty good in the ruck and Angus Byrne contributed too,’’ Briggs said.
‘‘The strong message the past five to six weeks has been to stay the course.
‘‘Particularly when I announced I wouldn’t coach next year, the message is to stick around and play for the club. It’s about getting the club back to where it should be.’’
A realistic path to finals football still exists for the Murray Bombers with sixth-placed Rochester hammered by Kyabram to the tune of 116 points.
With the Tigers having the more difficult draw, the round 17 showdown between the two sides shapes as a mini-final for a spot in the six.