Murray Bombers survive tight clash with Rochester

By Andrew Johnston

THE dream is well and truly alive at Victoria Park.

The Echuca Murray Bombers are headed for their second preliminary final in a row, after edging out local rivals Rochester by 26 points in yesterday's Goulburn Valley League semi-final.

But it was far from as clear as the scoreboard makes it seem.

While maintaining a lead for majority of the contest, Echuca never managed to get out of first gear, while the Tigers refused to go away, staying within striking distance late in the contest.

Rochester pulled to within seven points at the midway point of the final term, before Echuca finally broke away, kicking the final three goals of the game.

Echuca ruckman Jobee Warde was key for the men in bottle green, while late inclusion Luke McKenna was dominant throughout the match.

Cooper Barber and Ruory Kirkby both slotted two majors.

Echuca co-coach Simon Maddox said his side simply couldn't break the game open until the final quarter, but still had belief.

"We were in front most of the day but just weren't able to break the game open," he said.

"We started to really get our hands on the ball around the stoppages in the last and were able to get the ball moving in the way we wanted. It timed out with the rain starting to settle in which made it harder for Rochy to keep in the game, and gave us our opportunity to win it."

Co-coach Andrew Walker said his side expected Rochester to come hard.

"The rivalry between these two clubs is well and truly alive," he told media.

"They gave us their best football and it wasn't easy for us to get on top. They're an excellent side and played some really good football today, so it was a great contest.

"Finals football is a completely different game, if you aren't ready for it then it will be very hard on you. It was a tough contest, but we performed and got the win."

Now, the Murray Bombers will be returning to Deakin Reserve to play the Bears, a perfect repeat of last year's prelim.

For Maddox, now is the time to get their revenge.

"You don't get an opportunity to get back at them," he said.

"We went there last year, they beat us and ended their season. No matter what happened from there, they will always have that over us. Now we get the chance we've waited for."