Benalla All Blacks sent coach Harry Moran out on a winning note on Saturday, securing a 48-point win against a wilful Goorambat at Friendlies Oval.
Though it was the Bats who came out firing, their pressure leading to plenty of inside 50 entries, they could not find reward for effort, kicking 0.6 in the first term.
The All Blacks then capitalised in the back half of the quarter to be 17 points up at the first break.
In a more even second quarter, Goorambat broke through for its first goal of the day to keep the deficit to 16 points, but it was the All Blacks who rose to the top in the second half, kicking eight goals to five to secure their sixth win of the season.
For Moran, it was one last hurrah, as he kicked two goals to cap off his time at the club.
Speaking after the match, he said he was happy with the performance his team produced to finish its season.
“Goorambat had the pressure on us early, it could have been a completely different story (if they had got those goals),” Moran said.
“We did expect it to be close.
“But it probably blew out a little more than I expected.”
Moran said it was the work of two of his players, Joel Bate and Lochie Morrison, that stood out, calling their performances “phenomenal.”
“Early when we were getting beaten around the contest, they were the only two blokes who put their hands up and really contested for the pill,” Moran said.
“(Bate’s) ability to win the ball is like no other. He’s the bloke who goes and gets its.
“And (Morrison’s) ability to burst away from packs is second to none.”
It was a day of celebration for Goorambat, too, with long-time servant James Webb playing his 100th game.
But a win was not meant to be for Goorambat, which finishes its season in 10th with a record of 3-15.
With coach Sam Gladstone re-signed for next year, the Bats showed glimpses of what they are building towards against the All Blacks, with their pressure undeniable to start the match.
Ben Reaburn, as always, was solid in defence and combined with Webb to bring the ball out of the back half.
Wade Gladstone was great in the air and provided run and carry, while wingman Nathan Farley was able to send the ball forward.
For the All Blacks, they too miss the finals, finishing in seventh, two wins outside the top six.
It comes after featuring in the final series for the past two seasons.
“We definitely missed a trick this year. I thought we put a team together to still compete for finals,” Moran said.
“It was the commitment factor that really did get us in the end.
“That was the best side we fielded all year and it’s round 18, so that says enough."
Although Moran said he was bitterly disappointed to just miss out on September action, there was plenty to take out of the season.
“You turn two or three of those games around we just lost and we’re playing finals every day of the week,” Moran said.
“I’m super proud of the way we finished the season.
“We could have fizzled out and had a massive loss to Tarrawingee and then get rolled today.
“Our last month of football has set the club up for a good 2020.”
Final score: Benalla All Blacks 12.17 (89) def Goorambat 5.11 (41)
All Blacks Goal Kickers: H. Moran 2, K. Collisson 2, J. Ellis 2, J. Gervasoni, C. O’Connor, Z. Amarant, D. Bradshaw, T. Chapman, L. Sinclair.
Goorambat Goal Kickers: T. Ryan 2, W. Gladstone, L. Hernan, E. Cooke
All Blacks Best Players: J. Bate, L. Morrison, A. Jacka, J. Ellis, T. Chapman, W. Ellis
Goorambat Best Players: B. Reaburn, W. Gladstone, N. Farley, J. Pryor, J. Webb, D. Beavis
• The reserves match played out in similar fashion to the seniors, with All Blacks ending their season on a high with a 32-point win.
It was a close contest for three quarters, with the Bats only ever two goals away from the lead, but a 3.4 to 0.3 final quarter effort from the Panthers blew out the margin to 32 points.
Alister Crook kicked two goals in his 200th club game for the All Blacks, along with Shannon Willet (two), while Blake Goodwin (100 games) was named best-on-ground in his milestone match. For Goorambat it was Haider Alhasnawi (two goals) and Travers Nolan (two) who impacted on the scoreboard, while Andrew Ellis was his side's best.
The All Blacks finish the season in 10th with a 4-13 record, while the Bats unfortunately claimed the wooden spoon with just one win.
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