THE Shepparton Bears continued their charge towards September action — and consigned Echuca to further misery — in a second-half rampage at Deakin Reserve on Saturday.
The Murray Bombers fought well through the first half and trailed by just 10 points at the main break, but didn’t have enough to stay with their opponents, falling 8.13 (61) to 17.13 (115).
In better news for Echuca, youngster Luca Molluso made a strong senior debut with three goals, including a miracle snap from the boundary to open his account.
Echuca coach Andrew Briggs saw an improved effort from his side, something he’d been calling for after disappointing recent results.
‘‘Twenty minutes into the third quarter we were 13 points down, so things were good,’’ he said.
‘‘The last five or six minutes of the third we dropped off, and they just maintained.
‘‘They just overpowered us from there, but it was a much better effort than the last two weeks, and the score didn’t really reflect that.’’
He added it was skills rather than intensity that cost his side a chance to knock off the Bears.
‘‘We saw some spirit, passion, a bit of grit and some fight,’’ Briggs said.
‘‘It’s the little things, like just picking someone up and supporting your teammates, and they did that, but they just couldn’t execute skill-wise.
‘‘Our hands weren’t clean enough, and our kicks weren’t good enough.’’
Playing for pride with their finals hopes essentially non-existent, the Murray Bombers brought energy in the first quarter and only missed chances in front of goal (2.4) costing them the quarter-time lead.
Another 1.4 in the second was just as damaging, a more efficient Shepparton able to take a 10-point edge to the half, James Wong with two goals leading the way for the Bears.
The sides went goal for goal to start the second half, and Echuca was only two goals down late in the term, but three late Shepparton goals opened up a 33-point gap by the final break.
And with the game almost wrapped up, the Bears kicked the first five of the final term to put the game to bed, eventually 54-point winners.
Ben Davies kicked three and was named his side’s best player, John Bradaric important up forward as well with four goals.
For the Murray Bombers, Molluso’s three goals were a highlight, Tim Allan also chipping in with two.
Simon Buckley was the side’s best for the eighth time this season, other standouts Will Monahan, Brent McGrath, Lucas Denton, Jordan Florance and Bart Phillips.
Briggs said turnovers in the back half, both forced and unforced, had gifted the Bears some golden opportunities they’d capitalised on to take control of the game.
He also praised captain Florance who stood up in the ruck after Kane Morris again went down with injury, as well as the inexperienced trio of Molluso (senior debut), Caleb Smith (second game) and Sam Hartley (second game).
‘‘(Molluso) showed a bit and that was really pleasing,’’ he said.
‘‘He was in the right spot a couple of times, and he showed some real skill. He’ll take confidence from that, but the team took real confidence from him too.
‘‘(Smith) stood up well, he’s someone the club wants to keep around, we see a bright future for him.
‘‘(Hartley) switched over from soccer four years ago, and he’s stuck at it for three years between game one and two. He’s trustworthy and brings effort.’’
James McNamara was stretchered off with a concussion 10 minutes into the first quarter, an injury hurting the Murray Bombers late in the game as players struggled with cramp.
Echuca remains seventh on the table, a bye week next before a clash with rival Rochester, who would officially secure a finals position with any result in its last three games.