Bears stalk with intent

By Alex Mitchell

Shepparton had little trouble taking care of Echuca on enemy territory, romping to a 57-point win at Victoria Park.

An even spread across the board proved far too much for a lacklustre Murray Bombers outfit that struggled all day to deal with the Bears’ intense tackling pressure.

After two late first-quarter goals dragged Echuca within five points at the first break, it was one-way traffic, with Shepparton’s run and ball movement slicing through the home side like a hot knife through butter.

The main beneficiary of the early dominance was Bears forward dynamo Anthony Andronaco, who kicked five goals for the day and set-up more opportunities for his teammates in an all-round football clinic.

Shepparton coach Sean Harrap labelled it his side’s best performance of the season.

‘‘Our pressure was the best it’s been and if we can do that well, it’s a massive help,’’ he said.

‘‘I always refer back to last year and when we played well, our pressure was the cause and the rest takes care of itself.

‘‘I reckon the umpires probably let 15 tackles go they could have paid.

‘‘I’m really rapt with the four-quarter effort, I said to the guys at three-quarter-time it wouldn’t be a good effort unless they really finished it off, which they did.’’

Shepparton kicked nine goals to one in the second and third quarters combined, controlling the play with sublime ball movement.

VFL-listed duo Harry Boyd and Matt Brett showed plenty of class, but it was the balance of the display that drew the coach’s praise.

‘‘I thought all our mids were really good, I thought ‘Rokes’ (Nik Rokahr) really stood up, (Andronaco) up forward kicked five and even Jonty Wardle down back, I thought he really competed well and supported his teammates in the air,’’ Harrap said.

‘‘But we really could have picked 12 or more blokes in our best.’’

For Echuca, it was another dismal display in a marquee fixture, thoroughly outplayed again against a finals-bound side.

Tim Allan played a lone hand up forward with more than 10 shots at goal, but inaccuracy haunted him to finish with four goals.

Cam Valentine fought well in his key back post with several strong contested marks, but Echuca coach Simon Maddox said the team’s performance was lamentable.

‘‘We didn’t play our best football or our brand,’’ he said.

‘‘Full credit to Shepparton though because they made us pay for our mistakes and moved the ball really well.

‘‘They were more polished than us, Andronaco started really well and they were better in all areas.

‘‘We don’t shy away from it, hopefully that is not typical Echuca football and we were pretty honest with each other after the game.’’

Murray Bomber Jackson Stewart came from the ground in the final quarter after copping a stray leg to the face, the groggy youngster taken from the ground bleeding before heading to hospital.

He was released later on Saturday night with the all-clear.

Echuca’s Moon Oval date with Rochester on Saturday will be absolutely crucial in the context of the season.

The Bears are 6-3 with Shepparton Swans and Mooroopna to come, making them well placed for a push up the table.

‘‘You’d take that no doubt, if we’d said that at the start of the year we’d go ‘tick’,’’ Harrap said.