The Essendon Bombers managed to grind out a win against the Fremantle Dockers on Sunday, silencing their many critics in the process.
Essendon’s inability to get the job done in close games has been met with criticism this season but the Bombers managed to buck the trend with a tight win over Fremantle on Sunday.
Prior to the seven-point point win, the Bombers had lost all three of their games decided by ten points or less this season, going down to the Giants, Swans and Hawks by the slimmest of margins.
But now, the Dons faithful finally have reason to smile.
Michael Walters had the chance to put the Dockers in front at the 18-minute mark of the final term when he sold some candy to a pair of defenders, but his snap shot from 35m out went the wrong side of the goalpost, to level the scores.
Essendon’s Brayden Ham broke the deadlock four minutes later with a beautiful snap shot from 45m out after slicing his way through traffic in what was ultimately the matchwinning play.
The victory came at a cost for the Bombers, though, who lost Devon Smith, who was subbed out in the final quarter due to a hamstring injury.
Fremantle would be left to rue their poor kicking for goal, and there was no costlier instance of their inaccuracy than late in the third quarter when Matt Taberner, who was one of their best with four goals, had the chance to put Fremantle up by what would’ve almost been a game-breaking 15-point lead, given the tight nature of the contest which featured six lead changes.
However, instead of nailing the open goal, he sprayed his snap shot and the Bombers fought back to kick four of the last five goals to seal the win in what was a spiteful match at times, particularly with Essendon star Zach Merrett the subject of some very close checking, especially from tagger Caleb Serong.
The Bombers aren’t in the finals frame, but if the Dockers think they’re a legitimate finals contender, this match would have delivered them a sobering reality check about that notion as they missed a golden chance to overtake GWS on the ladder. Having lost three in a row, they’re now a game, and a fair bit of percentage, outside the top eight.
Early in the final quarter, Anthony McDonald-Tipungwuti delivered a leg break that Shane Warne would have been proud of as he unleashed a bomb from 48m out that looked like it was off line, but miraculously bounced at right angles to sneak in for a crucial goal and put the Dons up by eight points.
The Bombers got the jump on Freo with the first three goals, but Freo composed themselves and regained the ascendancy. In fact, the ball lived in Fremantle’s forward half for most of the second quarter, but despite enjoying 11 of the first 14 inside 50s, and more than doubling the Bombers in that stat for the term (16-7), they could only manage 2.4, while Taberner sent two shots out on the full, to incredibly trail Essendon by three points at halftime. The Dockers ended up winning the inside-50 count 49-46 and edged the Dons for clearances 37-31, but they were brought undone by their inaccuracy.
LAVERDE RECOVERS FROM EARLY BLOWS
Jayden Laverde was in the wars early in the game. He left the ground with the assistance of trainers in the first quarter and went straight to the rooms with an ankle injury. It didn’t look good for a period, but he was able to return to the field for the start of the second quarter. However, moments later, he copped an errant fist to the chin from Lachie Schultz in a marking contest, which floored him for multiple seconds and looked as though it required him to undergo a concussion test.
BOMBERS 3.2 5.2 7.6 10.8 (68)
DOCKERS 2.2 4.6 7.9 8.13 (61)
LERNER’S BEST Bombers: Parish, Redman, Hind, McGrath, Ridley, Heppell, Francis. Dockers: Taberner, Serong, Wilson, Darcy, Cerra, Cox, Logue
GOALS Bombers: Jones 2, McDonald-Tipungwuti 2, Langford, Wright, Redman, Parish, Phillips, Ham. Dockers: Taberner 4, Lobb, Cerra, Walters, Mundy.
INJURIES Bombers: Smith (hamstring). Dockers: Nil.
UMPIRES Stevic, Whetton, Mollison
VENUE Marvel Stadium
PLAYER OF THE YEAR
3 D.Parish (Ess)
2 M.Taberner (Fre)
1 M.Redman (Ess)