Shepparton dealt a strong blow to Echuca’s Goulburn Valley League under-18 finals chances on Saturday with a hard-fought 9.9 (63) to 9.3 (57) victory.
The Bears led at every change throughout the triumph, but with plenty on the line the Murray Bombers never gave in, kicking 4.1 to 1.1 in the final term to fall agonisingly short of success.
Tim Miles, Jack Nation, Jack Wilson, Oliver Widdicombe, James Butts and Hugo Ingham were the best performers for the home side in a strong team effort, where seven Bears shared the spoils of nine goals.
For Echuca, Liam Tenace booted six majors in a standout showing in attack, with Darcy Elliott, Trent Campbell, Bailey Gray, Oscar Reid and Michael Carmellotti also impressive.
Echuca will now have to rely on Rochester losing to Benalla in the second weekend of the split round to keep its finals hopes alive, with the Tigers already one game ahead of the Murray Bombers and the two sides set to face off in round 17.
That August 19 clash will be a literal elimination final, as Echuca plays Mansfield (currently 12th) and Rochester plays Shepparton Swans (11th) in the final round this year.
Shepparton (fourth) will be hoping the Saints fail to secure victory though, with its rival currently occupying the much sought-after third spot on the table.
●Kyabram continued its unbeaten season on Sunday with a dominant performance against Tatura.
The Bombers slotted 14 goals after quarter-time to retain control of the match for its entirety, with the final scoreboard showing a 16.7 (103) to 2.6 (18) victory to the away side at Tatura Park.
Curtis Ryan (three goals), Harry Browning-Briese, Angus McKenzie, Kane Sewell (two), Coby McCarthy (three) and Makenzie Ryan led the way for Kyabram, while David Comi, Jayden Armstrong, Ethan Moor, Mason Farley, Callum Minutoli and Cooper Eyles battled well all day in tough conditions for Tatura.
The Bulldogs remain in the hunt for a double chance come September, but with a deficit of a game and more than 100 percentage points to second-placed Shepparton United, everything would have to fall their way in the last two rounds.
●The Demons kept their finals destiny in their own hands through a 13.14 (92) to 2.4 (16) rout of Seymour.
Hume Hurley kicked three goals in the big win at Kings Park, with teammates Ben McCluskey, Liam Schreck, Mitch McGrath (two goals), Joel Serra, Lachlan Holthuisen and Ryan Wenske making their mark on the contest as well.
For the Lions, Mitch Itter booted two majors and Huw Jones, Daniel Fisher, Michael Quine, Ryan Allison, Connor McCloy and Tom Davey held their heads high after the defeat.