THE Murray Bushrangers survived a late challenge to defeat Sandringham by 23 points at Wangaratta’s Norm Minns Oval on Saturday.
After leading by 32 points at the last change, the Dragons slammed on three goals in nine minutes to cut the deficit to eight points.
But the home team steadied and ran away with the match late to consolidate their position near the top of the TAC Cup ladder.
Academy player Zane Barzen led the way while Albury first-gamer Riley Bice bobbed up with three goals as the 23rd player.
“It was good to respond like we did,” coach Leon Higgins said.
“Sandringham got on a roll for a while there but our midfielders stemmed the tide and got the ball going forward again.
“It was a pleasing effort.”
Bice took a courageous mark soon after coming on to the ground from the interchange and was able to hit the scoreboard later in a low-scoring match.
Sam Beasley was solid in defence, Kyle Clarke and Nathan Oakes picked up vital touches and Daniel Johnston was strong in attack with three goals.
Wodonga Raiders’ Will Donaghey impressed with his run from defence in his first match in three weeks.
“He started really well and was clean with his hands,” Higgins said.
Sandringham, who has slipped down the table after losing its last three matches, had a star in Hamish Brayshaw.
The over-age Dragon dominated the midfield with support coming from Hayden McLean.
Higgins said he was pleased with the Bushrangers start to the season.
“We are getting to the end of a tough block of matches,” Higgins said.
“It’s been good so far.”
The Bushrangers take on Oakleigh at Norm Minns Oval on Sunday.
Meanwhile, former Albury premiership player Matt Munro was one of Werribee’s best in its 11-point win over Collingwood in their VFL match at Wangaratta.
Munro and his teammates trailed by 41 points at quarter-time before fighting back and clinching a memorable victory.
He finished with two goals.
Former Murray Bushranger Louis Pinnuck made his debut for the Tigers.
Andrew Swallow pressed his claims for an AFL recall while big Braydon Preuss threw his weight around.
Another former Bushranger, Max Lynch, kicked a goal for Collingwood.
The match was played at Wangaratta as Werribee’s home ground is undergoing a $12 million redevelopment.