THE Murray Bushrangers dropped their third match of the season when they lost by two points to Dandenong at Shepley Oval on Saturday.
With the side fielding 12 bottom-age players for the Futures Round match, it fell just short of a stirring come-from-behind victory.
Leon Higgins’ side kicked 5.2 to 1.1 in the final quarter before running out of time.
Shepparton United’s Kyle Clarke was sensational with his run and spread from defence while Alex Paech proved rock solid nearby.
Benalla’s Mark Marriott stood out in the ruck and up forward, Doulton Langlands provided plenty of dash and Angus Hicks won many crucial possessions.
Higgins said it was an impressive performance considering the age of the side.
“Apart from a poor second quarter, the boys were really good,” Higgins said.
“We were undisciplined and gave away a couple of 50-metre penalties and free kicks which led to goals.
“They got a break on us but we came home really well and couldn’t quite get there.
“We pushed them hard which was a good effort for a team with a lot of bottom age players.
“I thought we controlled play for most of the game.”
The Bushrangers, who took 12 bottom-age players into the clash instead of the required 11, were dealt a blow early when Benalla’s Pat Warner was forced from the field with an ankle injury.
He started the match brightly with an impressive goal.
“It was disappointing because he looked threatening,” Higgins said.
Stingray Bailey Morrish played well for the victors as a 19-year-old.
The Bushrangers take on Eastern Ranges at Wangaratta’s Norm Minns Oval in another Futures Round match on Sunday.
They then have the bye before meeting Western Jets in the third and final Futures clash.
Several Bushrangers are expected to play for Victoria Country against Victoria Metro at Punt Road on Saturday.
North Albury’s Ben Paton was a stand-out in their opening round win over the Allies.
The TAC Cup ladder is:
Geelong 36, Oakleigh Chargers 32, Murray Bushrangers 28, Sandringham Dragons 24, Dandenong Stingrays 24, Northern Knights 20, Gippsland Power 16, Eastern Ranges 16, Greater Western Victoria Rebels 12, Bendigo Pioneers 12, Western Jets 12, Calder Cannons 8