ECHUCA UNITED are the Murray Netball League’s masters of closing out games.
In the shock of the round, the Eagles swooped on the Deniliquin Rams and delivered the visitors their first loss of the year, a two-goal 38-36 result.
The Eagles added to an impressive run of form — not losing in six weeks — with the average margin a four-goal victory in their last four games.
United coach Rohan Starkey has taught his young side well, to ensure victory under pressure and in games that they are not expected to win.
In fact the result against Deni is almost a replica of that against Tongala, a 37-34 victory in a time where Tonny was significantly higher on the ladder.
But Starkey’s troops fought hard all game with younger, more energetic players, and defended their Echuca South Rec Reserve fortress to the hilt.
It was no different against Deni, as both ends of the court fired and played huge hands in the win.
Erin Delahunty was best on court in the defensive third, while young gun Tanner Edwards shot at a staggering 90 per cent to get maximum reward from the mid-courters’ efforts.
Delivering Deni’s maiden loss of the year could not have been more pleasing to first-year coach Starkey.
‘‘Scores were level at quarter time and we urged them to keep up their hard work on the court and to reward any turnover ball we got with goals.
‘‘We remained composed in attack and we held a slender lead at the half time break. Both sides came out of the main break determined to break away with a lead but the Eagles were able to remain ahead going into the last.
‘‘Deni came out firing in the last and got to within a goal of us . . . but it was some amazing defence by Erin Delahunty that allowed us to hang on and take the win,’’ he said.
A ‘‘sparkling return’’ to form from Liv Bish in wing defence also provided drive through the mid court, feeding the ball to those higher up in the food chain, and turn effort into goals.
‘‘Next up we take on Finley who will be tough to get past as well. They have a team full of youth so we will need to be on our game,’’ Starkey said.
Finley are back in ninth, while United’s win closes the gap on sixth-placed Tonny to points percentage. Above them stand a shaky Cobram side, four points clear.