A BUZZING Echuca United side made the long trip to Finley worth the petrol, snatching yet another victory against a much-improved Cats outfit to make it three wins on the trot.
The Eagles secured the four points in typical fashion, with patient, unrelenting defensive thrusts again a highlight for the blue and gold.
“Our transition has been a lot better in the past couple of weeks as we’ve worked fairly hard on it recently,” assistant coach Rowan Hill said.
“The skill level was also up which was pleasing too.”
The visitors started irresistibly, kicking away with five goals to one in the first quarter putting the Cats on the back foot.
The procession continued in the second quarter with more blistering attack from the Eagles, the game essentially in the bag at the half with a near 10-goal lead.
Finley rallied in the second half, outscoring the Eagles by four points, but it was much too little, too late as United had sealed an 11th win for the season.
Farren Priest led from the front with six goals, another four from Tony McMahon the bulk of United’s scoring.
Defender Tom McMinn was a welcome inclusion to the side, out since the side’s round 11 clash where he took a sickening hit from Nathalia’s Brodie Ross. He slotted back into the defensive 50 alongside in-form youngster Bailey Sawyer and the ever-reliable Corey Wanganeen.
“It was nice to see Tom running around where he should be; although you could tell he’d been out a while he will be crucial to us coming into finals,” Hill added.
With the business end of the season so close, United has a relatively healthy list to take into its final home game next week, a clash with seventh-placed Cobram looming large before the ultimate test of Numurkah in hostile territory to finish the regular season.
For a second straight game, the Eagles’ reserves did not play, Finley not having the numbers to field a team as Rumbalara did too the game before.
“It has hurt not being able to bring blokes back from injury through the twos but we probably have four or five to return in the next couple of weeks including Lance Oswald and Clayton Zanella,” Hill said.
“The most pleasing part of the day was definitely the young blokes, I couldn’t talk highly enough of those guys.
“Nick Witchell played the full game and from the start had an impact, even showing the senior boys how to create a contest and Eggs (Lachie Egglestone) did nothing wrong and contested well on the wing in his debut.”
Much like his brother Tom, Nick Witchell’s game was highlighted by intense and unrelenting pressure and a willingness to tackle, ultimately setting up a teammate for a major.
Debutant Egglestone came on just after the half and as with Nick Witchell was not afraid to lay a tackle.
“My favourite part of the game was definitely tackling Tom Hawkins’ brother,” Egglestone said.
He wasn’t quite sure when he will be ready to take on Hawkins in the AFL.
Duane Hueston, Jamie Ferguson, Phil Hubbard and Bailey Sawyer were other star contributors for the Eagles.
The win combined with Mulwala’s loss to Numurkah moved the Eagles to fifth on the ladder with two games to play.
If positions remain the same, United is set for a blockbuster elimination final against Moama, set to played on the Mowers’ home ground.