ECHUCA’S hopes of Goulburn Valley League A grade netball finals are fading quickly after a disappointing 32-43 loss to Benalla on Saturday.
The Murray Bombers were looking to get one back on the Saints after going down 44-47 in the round two meeting between the teams, but couldn’t stay with their fast-finishing opponents who blew them away in the last term.
The defeat leaves them six points outside the top six with difficult fixtures to come in the next three weeks.
In what was expected to be a tight game, Benalla got the better of the first half and led 21-17 at half-time.
Knowing how important a win could be, the Murray Bombers lifted the intensity particularly on the defensive end, turning the ball over and capitalising through goalers Lisa Drysdale and Abby Poulton to cut the lead to just one at the final break.
But the Saints adjusted and made the most of some loose Echuca passing to run away with the 11-goal win.
Echuca coach Casey Frame felt the side was a big chance to win the game and was disappointed with the final quarter effort.
‘‘We had a really good first three quarters, we were very competitive and really happy with how we performed,’’ Frame said.
‘‘But the last quarter, the first couple of minutes, we threw the ball into their hands a number of times. We didn’t recover and we dropped our heads.
‘‘It really got to us and that hurt us.’’
After the brilliant third term, Echuca seemed on the brink of an important upset, but couldn’t finish the job.
‘‘We were congested in attack, we would make one lead but not re-offer, and we ran into each other’s space,’’ Frame said.
‘‘There were a few critical moments where we threw it to them and rather then be proactive and defend, the pressure dropped.
‘‘That was really disappointing because we’d had great defensive pressure all game.
‘‘We were good for three quarters but we were like a different team in the last, and we are better than that.’’
Frame was pleased with her side’s young defenders who made life tough for the Saints’ goalers.
‘‘I was really happy with Kloe Miechel, she had a good four quarter performance against a very tall shooter,’’ she said. ‘‘Eve Gregor was fantastic and Dearnah Kent is always reliable and consistent. Meg Rohde was great, she was playing against a physical wing attack who tries to get into her opponent’s head. I asked her to stand her ground and she didn’t get involved with it, so I was really happy with how she stood up.’’
Having lost their last three games, the Murray Bombers are losing touch with the top six sides and will likely need to win two of their next three difficult fixtures against Mooroopna, Shepparton Swans and Shepparton Bears to be still in the mix at round 17.
Next weekend’s home game against Mooroopna shapes as a vital game, the Cats one spot above Echuca on the ladder.