Finley fightback

By Southern Riverina News

For the second week in a row a big last quarter from Finley has led to a fighting win in the Murray Football League.

The Cats got over a plucky visiting Congupna by 13 points in the round 13 clash on Saturday.

Trailing by 14 points at half time, the Cats clawed their way back to bring the margin to two points at the final break and booted 29 points to 14 to claim an important victory heading into the back end of the season.

Coming off a solid win the week before against a team placed above them on the ladder, the Cats were mindful that Saturday’s opposition were also looking to cement a spot in the finals.

Finley were forced to make changes to the line-up with Zec Cuppens, Scott Sherwen, Willie Robertson and Robb Jewell all out.

Lachy Hawkins was also a late withdrawal and the selectors turned to youth as replacements — Sam Orro, Ben Ashley-Cooper and Duncan Clarke the ins.

The home side began tentatively and it was the visitors who posted the opening goal benefiting from a 50m penalty.

Nick Robertson, Mitch Ryan and Lachy Small were standing strong in defence, withholding most of the Road’s attack.

Finley’s Tim McKenzie, Ed Barlow and Shaun Kable playing forward were lively and from an early stage it was evident the game would be a close one.

Tommy McCarney was given the run-with role on Bryden Squire and the Cats were made fully aware the Road would set up through Josh Chapman and Lachy Baldwin across half back.

Cameron Robertson was the first to convert for the Cats marking strongly in the contest after some clever work upfield from Ashley Cooper.

Mitchell Beck soon responded for Congupna who led at the first change by five points.

Paul Massingham was busy early and his pressure in the forward line was rewarded with a free and the resultant goal was badly needed. Chris Grant then roved the pack brilliantly for the Road and the lead changed again.

A free to Matt Wilson playing on the wing resulted in his first goal but this was to be Finley’s last for the quarter as Congupna feasted on turnovers and poor choices when entering the forward line. Sam Ferguson was the beneficiary and his two goals for the term saw the margin out to 14 points at the main break in favour of the visitors.

Duncan Clarke proved to be the spark the Cats needed. He entered the match early as a substitute for the injured Tim Mead who played no part after quarter time. A strong pack mark and goal and another saw the youngster draw the margin back to two points.

With Barlow suffering a recurring groin injury before half time rotations were limited and it was obvious the players would need to dig deep.

Tom Doyle rucked strongly all day providing Levi Middleton and Angus Robertson plenty of opportunities for the Cats and their work at the clearances slowly brought the home side back into the contest.

Congupna were first to goal in the last term through Josh Dwyer. A quick reply from Marc Shaw on the run had the vocal home crowd on the edge of their seats.

Ashley-Cooper was again prominent hitting McKenzie on a lead after Doyle and Middleton combined at the clearance.

When McKenzie bent another shot around his body for a goal on the run the Cats were coming home strongly as they did the previous week — 13 point winners on the final siren.

Finley coach Rob Daniel said he was happy his side came out strong in the second half and praised his younger players for their efforts.

‘‘It was a pretty ordinary first half ... we allowed them too much space and they were getting a few easy uncontested possessions.

‘‘We kicked into gear in the second half by beating them to the ball and applying more pressure.

‘‘Ben Ashley-Cooper and Duncan Clarke both played well. Duncan kicked two quick goals in the third quarter which really helped us.’’

Two weeks ago the Cats faded in the last quarter despite beating Echuca United by 18 points, however they’ve outscored their opponents 74 to 21 in the past two matches in fourth quarters combined.

Daniel said it was something he brought up with the players at training.

‘‘One thing we haven’t done is play consistent four quarters all season,’’ he said.

‘‘Once we find consistency we can match any side and we’re going to need to do that moving forward.’’