In a no holds barred Second Elimination Final in front of 78559 fans, Essendon lined up against North Melbourne for the right to advance further into the Finals series. The Bombers had much to prove after two tumultuous seasons marred by the ASADA investigation into the use of prohibited substances at the club in 2012. Banned from the 2013 Finals series as a result, finally they had a chance to play on the big stage and give their fans something to celebrate. For North Melbourne it was “make or break’ type pressure hanging over their heads with the absence of team “barometer” Brent (Boomer) Harvey (suspended) a definite disadvantage.
Essendon’s first quarter was a stirring one with Bomber players demonstrating Finals brand intensity and passion. Dynamic attacking play from experienced campaigner Paul Chapman put the Kangaroos’ defense under enormous pressure early and goals followed from Joe Daniher and Travis Colyer. North recalibrated and goals from Nick dal Santo and Levi Greenwood settled their supporters’ heartbeats as they went into quarter time only one point behind the Bombers.
Essendon took control in the second term. In spite of a dominant midfield performance by Kangaroo Daniel Wells, Essendon scored four goals through confident run on at all costs football. They took a 27 point lead into half time after North only managed to score a solitary point and looked to be seriously challenged.
An early third quarter goal to Chapman looked to put the dagger in what remained of the Kangaroos’ season as the Bombers surged to a 33 point lead. However an untidy turnover by Essendon and skilful ball play by a seemingly unopposed Wells gave Ben Brown an opportunity on goal and the newest Kangaroo cult figure kicked truly. Suddenly North began to mount a serious challenge. Brown was in everything, kicking his second goal and spearheading an attack which led to a Lindsay Thomas goal. The Roos were now trailing by only 15 points and their pace and intensity became factors. Brown goaled for the third time and this was followed by an end to end passage of play and a Sam Gibson goal, which reduced the margin to a slim three points. Chapman was running himself into the ground trying to rev up the Bombers and late goals to Daniher and Tom Bellchambers kept Essendon in the lead by 11 points at the final break. It was an enthralling third quarter by both sides but the game hung in the balance.
With elimination on the line, it was game on in the final term. Again goals were traded, with two young curly-headed warriors - Daniher for Essendon and Brown for North – the first scorers for their respective teams. North hit the front after Ben Cunnington and Lindsay Thomas nailed their opportunities. Of the two teams, North appeared the fresher but it was Paddy Ryder whose brilliance returned the lead to the Bombers. However a five minute purple patch by North’s Drew Petrie broke the Bombers and provided the turning point in the game. Petrie snapped a remarkable half chance through the goalposts then swooped on a second opportunity and goaled again only minutes later.
After an incredible fight back, the Kangaroos ran out winners by two goals and will meet Geelong in a Semi-Final next weekend. For Essendon it was not the dream ending to the nightmare year and there may be hard days still to come as the ASADA saga churns on through the summer months.
Scoreboard North Melbourne: 2.3 2.4 9.5 14.9 (93) Essendon: 2.4 6.7 10.8 12.9 (81) Best players North Melbourne: Goldstein, Wells, Brown, Greenwood Essendon: Heppell, Ryder, Chapman, Daniher
Article last changed on Thursday, September 11, 2014 - 9:12 AM EDT