Sport

Part one in the bag, now it’s the finals

By Fraser Walker-Pearce

ECHUCA United cemented a Murray Netball League finals berth in dramatic fashion on Saturday, with a two-goal win on the road.

Defeating Congupna the Road 34-32 means United is now uncatchable for ninth-placed Finley, and that the Eagles will play in September’s finals.

The only question left now is what position they will finish in two weeks’ time.

United can finish as high as third, or as low as sixth now, and will be pushing for a top four finish to ensure they have two chances come next month.

Eagle coach Rohan Starkey said his side battled hard in the absence of three key players and would look to continue a red hot run of form into this weekend’s match against lowly Shepparton East.

Starkey credited the win to attacking duo Tanner Edwards and Phoebe Poole, stating they helped to ‘‘grind out’’ what turned out to be a vital four-pointer over a lower-placed Congupna.

‘‘With three of our usual A graders out — Erin Delahunty, Jess Davidson and Fallon Lieschke — we managed to grind out a tough win,’’ Starkey said.

‘‘Congupna matched our intensity early and scores were level for most of the match. It took some tight defence all over the court to take the two-goal win.’’

Starkey’s young side has now gone five weeks unbeaten, and looks to continue that fine run of form against East on Saturday.

The 12th-placed side has won four times in 2018 compared to United’s 11. But the side did cause the Eagles a fair amount of trouble in the previous encounter.

In round nine United scrapped their way to a three-goal win over East away from home.

Starkey said he would be encouraging his side to play without fear against East and head for what would be a sixth consecutive week without defeat.

Starkey said it was imperative that United now aim to head into September’s finals on a hot streak.

‘‘Next we take on Shepp East again and we will be looking for a more polished performance than the last time we met,’’ he said.

Standing in their way after East, in the final week of the Murray Netball League’s normal season is local rival Tongala.

United was the side to hand Tonny its second defeat of the year, and will look to do the double over the Blues on what could be their opponents’ final day of the 2018 season.