ECHUCA UNITED made light work of Congupna on Saturday romping home by 26 goals at Mulwala’s Lonsdale Reserve.
The Eagles never left third gear in their race to the Murray Netball League grand final, securing an early lead and building on it every quarter.
Coach Elle Florance said it was good to get the first week of finals out of the way and looked forward to taking it up to the other teams still in finals.
‘‘We still have things we need to work on,’’ she said.
‘‘We’re looking forward to getting into training and getting those ironed out before the next couple of weeks.’’
United seemed in control from the first whistle and refused to be rattled when a miscommunication on Congupna’s behalf in the first 15 minutes saw a player not named on the sheet come onto the court in centre.
The Road then had to play out the remaining three minutes without a wing attack, but United had already conjured a handy lead.
United didn’t allow Congupna to monopolise the ball as it had in its upset over second-placed Tongala a few weeks earlier.
Breanna Bookham caused two turnovers in the first term from centre passes by having strong hands over the ball and Liv Bish’s defensive pressure around the ring at wing defence saw the Road throwing the ball away.
‘‘Liv and Bre (Breanna) were hungry for the ball and it showed,’’ Florance said.
‘‘Their intensity really lifted the whole team.
‘‘We wanted to get those one-percenters and did that this week, but we’re still working on our discipline and giving that second effort the whole game.’’
Goal keeper Amy Gledhill came out of the ring to pick off two intercepts, while goal shooter Sophie Atkinson was goaling at 100 per cent to set up the seven-goal margin at quarter time, 14-7.
Gracie Berryman played a feeding role at goal attack and made the most of the Congupna defenders double teaming Atkinson to move around the ring and be an extra pass for midcourters Bookham and Remy Day (WA).
Congupna’s goal shooter Kate Boswell kept it in the game by presenting well under the ring and goaling accurately.
Turnovers in the middle third hurt the lower placed side and while United never appeared comfortably in the lead, it continued to chip away at the margin to be up 25-16 at half-time.
The Eagles lifted in the third with Florance coming on into goal keeper and Gledhill moving out into goal defence.
The transition from defence into attack seemed to flow more easily and the defenders worked overtime to cause 11 turnovers during the quarter.
Strong one-on-one defensive pressure from the entire team gave the Eagles the upper-hand.
It meant Congupna had to make several changes during each quarter to work around the tight defence.
‘‘It’s always good when you force a team into making changes,’’ Florance said.
‘‘Our problem was being able to adapt quickly to those changes and back ourselves to keep going.’’
They led by 20 goals going into the fourth quarter, 41-21, and held on to the lead, enabling them to bring on under-15 player Hollie Davidson in the final two minutes at centre.
United ran out a comfortable winner 54-28.
‘‘We asked the girls to have a nice, calm start and that’s what they did and we were able to build on that until the third quarter,’’ Florance said.
‘‘But we dropped a bit in the last quarter and will need to lift our intensity if we’re to match it with the teams that are still in the finals with us in the next couple of weeks.
‘‘We wanted to come out harder in the third quarter and push out the game, but we never got out of third gear.’’
United’s B grade also survived to play another week after a close encounter with Cobram on Saturday saw them up by two goals at the final whistle.
Both teams will need to win next week against Deniliquin’s A and B grades if they’re to keep going in the finals series.