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AFL First Elimination Final West Coast v Essendon, Optus Stadium.
Kyle Langford (file photo/AFANA)

The Essendon Bombers survived a late challenge by a determined West Coast Eagles to win by one goal in a thriller at Optus Stadium. The Bombers had more of the play for three quarters but couldn't finish scoring opportunities off the strong work of their midfield. Whereas the Eagles launched less attacks but were more efficient in attack. The Bombers used handball to break out of packs but the Eagles' players were more inclined to "roll the dice" and take on the tackler to get out of tight situations. Veteran ruckman Todd Goldstein, was dominant in for Essendon and for three quarters the Bombers won more clearances through his combination with Darcy Parish and Zach Merrett at ground level. Goldstein tired in the last stanza and an improved second half by Tim Kelly of the Eagles in the packs brought the hosts back into the game.

Kelly Goals
Kelly Kicks (file photo/AFANA)

Both teams started the first quarter cautiously, dropping a spare man into defense once the ball passed the center. This left an extra man in attack for the opposing team but the defenders for each side were up to the task. It took fourteen minutes of play before the Bombers scored the first goal through a strong leading run and mark (catch) by Peter Wright. Wright had too much height for both Eagles defenders Tom Barrass and Jeremy McGovern, who played from behind, allowing Wright to make leads. While they focused on stopping Wright, Kyle Langford worked into space to also present as a marking target. At the other end Jake Waterman marked strongly for West Coast, despite Ben McKay's strong in defensive work for the Bombers. Wright and Langford finished the quarter with a goal each and Jake Waterman booted one for the Eagles.

Waterman started the second quarter with a strong mark and fifty-five-metre set shot to inspire the Eagles.  Elliot Yeo was busy for West Coast when packs formed around the ball. He goaled three minutes later to put the Eagles in front for the only time in the match. Sam Durham was dominant in close for Essendon using his pace to break out of packs and launch attacks. Goals to Langford, Wright, Stringer, and Durham himself had the Eagles under pressure. The Dons applied more pressure around the ball forcing turnovers and transitioning directly into attack to apply scoreboard pressure on the home side. The Eagles' third goal for the quarter came from a quick transition from defense to Jack Williams who marked and kicked truly. A late goal to Merrett who marked a good kick from Parish gave the Bombers a useful lead at the long break.

dogs bombers
Merrett Kicks (file photo/AFANA)

A brain fade by Goldstein, early in the third term gifted the Eagles a fifty meter penalty and the opening goal of the quarter. Goldstein had knocked the ball out of Jack Darling's hands after Darling had taken a mark and hence the penalty. Merrett goaled at the seven-minute mark after another quick transition from defense by the Bombers. The Bombers then made repeated entries into the attack but couldn't score due to the strong Eagle defense led by McGovern, Barrass, and Liam Duggan. Successive goals to Campbell Chesser (a scrambled kick on the goal line), Jack Williams, and Darling (both strong marks) brought the Eagles back to within ten points. A brilliant snap by Merrett from near the boundary line once again gave the Bombers some breathing space. Xavier Duursma marked after a Merrett entry disorganized the Eagles' defense to give the Essendon a fifteen-point lead at the final break.

Jack Darling goaled from a free kick early in the final stanza narrowing the margin. Langford marked and goaled nine minutes later for the Bombers, only to see the Eagles push forward through strong work by Tim Kelly who kicked to Waterman, who marked and goaled with ten minutes on the clock. Both teams slugged it out for the next nine-minutes with the visitors scoring two more behinds (worth a point each). The Eagles didn't surrender and clever work at a stoppage near goals resulted in Jack Williams scoring a goal with a minute left. Essendon slowed play to chew up time and held-off the Eagles to win by one goal in a tense finish on the Eagles fifty-meter arc.

Next Saturday the Bombers have a tough challenge against the Giants at Marvel Stadium. Whichever team wins will be in the top four. The Eagles met the Collingwood Magpies on Sunday at the same venue. The Magpies must win to stay in touch with the top eight. The Eagles will be seeking a win in Melbourne, something that hasn't happened much in recent seasons.

West Coast Eagles: 1.1 4.2  8.5 11.5  (71)
Essendon Bombers:  2.2 7.6 10.8 11.11 (77)

West Coast Eagles: Kelly, Duggan, Barrass, Waterman, Yeo
Essendon Bombers:  Parish, Merrett, Martin, McKay, Goldstein

West Coast Eagles: Waterman 3, Williams 3, Darling 2, B.J. Williams, 
                   Yeo, Chesser
Essendon Bombers:  Merrett 3, Langford 3, Wright 2, Stringer, 
                   Duursma, Durham


Article last changed on Thursday, May 09, 2024 - 11:00 PM EDT


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