AN UPSET smashing of Euroa has left the Rochester Tigers in the box seat to head back to the Goulburn Valley League finals.
The Magpies impressive 11-3 record entering the game made them warm favourites, but they were smashed from the opening bounce with the Tigers returning to some of their best form.
Two games and percentage clear of Echuca on the GVL ladder, they would be extremely unlucky to miss the finals from here with Benalla, Echuca and Shepparton Swans games to close the home and away season.
Battling injuries throughout the season, coach James Flaherty was thrilled his side stepped up to take down one of the league’s front-runners.
‘‘We’ve been going pretty well, but we felt like we needed to bounce back from the Kyabram loss, and we did that which was good,’’ he said.
‘‘The whole group’s energy and effort was better, the tackling pressure was really good and we played the conditions really well.’’
On a windy day at Moon Oval, the Tigers kicked with the breeze in the first quarter and certainly made the most of it, ahead 34-0 at the first break.
Steven Stroobants, who had a day out with seven goals, kicked the game’s opening two goals before Tim Letcher, Jarod Bacon and Dillon Williams all goaled late in the term to build the margin.
Nick O’Connor kicked the first goal of the second term, but Euroa worked its way into the game before half-time to close the margin to 23 points.
‘‘We went with the wind in the first quarter and that helped us, but the second quarter was really good to hold them to what we did,’’ Flaherty said.
With finals potentially on the line in the third quarter, Rochester’s star forward Stroobants ran rampant with four goals in the term, Jarod Bacon also capitalising on the midfield dominance as the Tigers built a match-winning 63-point lead by three-quarter-time.
Neither team was able to string multiple goals together in the final quarter, and it was the Tigers who ran out comfortable winners, 14.13 (97) to 5.5 (35).
Flaherty said his side’s ball use kicking inside 50 had been strong in an all-round team performance.
‘‘We made their midfield group accountable to us and the pressure all-round was great,’’ he said
‘‘Their outside run is strong and their ball use is too, so shutting that down was a focus for us.’’
The Magpies were without playing-coach JD Hayes, VFL listed Lauchlan Dalgliesh and Adam Tarrant, but played nothing like the fast-running side that beat Shepparton the week before.
Mitch Bright and James Gledhill dominated defensively for Rochester, while Nathan Marrone was named the side’s best player for the fifth time this season.
While the side was without Flaherty and Bendigo Pioneer Wil Hamilton, it had three important inclusions with Elliot Bowen, Perry Oliver and James McPhee back in the line-up.
But continuing a terrible run with injuries, Leigh Millard went down with a knee injury in the second quarter.
He is still waiting on scans on the knee, but the injury is viewed as a potential ACL.
Rochester has the bye this weekend with an away trip to Benalla to come the following week.
Flaherty, Heath Aitken, Sam Brennan and now Millard remain key outs for the Tigers and will be reassessed in the bye week.