The Fremantle Dockers bounced back from a poor display against the GWS Giants to end the Essendon Bombers run of four consecutive victories. The Dockers' return to winning form started slowly with Essendon leading for most of the first quarter. The Bombers started well by winning contested possessions and out-running the Dockers to create loose players. After four minutes of play the visitors had booted two goals. The first, courtesy of a clever chip kick out of a pack by Zach Merrett, was marked (caught) by Kyle Langford. Langford's set shot was accurate. Merrett was involved two minutes later when he intercepted a Docker handball to chip to Darcy Parish, who handballed to Jye Caldwell who slotted a running goal from just thirty meters. After an initial shock, the Dockers settled and were more competitive around the ball. Despite the pressure, the visitors still won more contested possessions but the Dockers were well served by their defenders. A free kick to Sam Switkowski for a high tackle resulted in the home team's first goal after eleven minutes of play.
With just over a minute to the first break, Switkowski intercepted a poor defensive kick by Brandon Zerk-Thatcher. Switkowski's kick to Andrew Brayshaw set off a chain of possessions that finished with Luke Jackson running close to the square to snap the Dockers' second goal. The Dockers won the clearance at the next center bounce, where Matthew Johnson booted long to see Michael Walters take an excellent mark against bigger opponents. Walter's set shot put the Dockers in front for the first time.
The Bombers attacked early in the second quarter. Ben Hobbs, Nic Martin, Merrett, and Parish were busy in the middle for them with Caleb Serong effective at stoppages for the Dockers. A miskick out of the Dockers' defense by Liam Henry was intercepted by Sam Weideman. Hobbs found space away from the out-of-position Docker defenders to mark and kick truly to level the scores. Jake Stringer spent some time at center bouncedowns and immediately won clearances, but the Docker defenders led by Luke Ryan and Alex Pearce frustrated the Essendon forwards. Peter Wright was held goalless by Pearce, and Ryan took multiple intercept marks. After four minutes of hectic play Henry redeemed himself for the Dockers by passing accurately to Johnson who goaled. At the restart the Bombers attacked again. With four loose players at half forward they somehow managed to fumble the ball out of bounds. This was a crucial turning point of the game. The Dockers rebounded and Jye Amiss gathered a ground ball and snapped a clever goal. The Bombers came again by winning a contested ball on the wing and Nic Martin took a good mark to goal for the visitors. Four minutes later, Amiss gathered a Lachie Shultz tap-on to snap a brilliant goal. The Bombers sensed the Dockers rising and flooded back with players. The Dockers responded by patiently kicking the ball across the ground to pry open spaces in attack. With five minutes to halftime Jackson found room in the congestion to mark and goal. Then with two minutes to go, the Dons surged forward, and Matt Guelfi snapped an important goal. However, at the next bounce down, Serong won a clearance and kicked to Michael Frederick, who booted a spirit sapping reply and took the game to the midpoint.
Two Docker goals in the first three minutes of the third quarter had Essendon on the ropes and lacking belief in their own abilities. The Bombers only goal for the quarter came at the five-minute mark when the mercurial Jake Stringer soccered an unbelievable goal from a tight angle. From there, the Dockers ramped up the pressure around the ball and controlled the game for long periods. In the midfield, Serong got on top of Parish, and Brayshaw improved his game to get the better of Merrett. The Dons were on the defensive and were only saved further embarrassment by Josh Treacy and Sean Darcy missing gettable Docker goals. However, Shultz and Jackson added a goal each for the hosts in time-on to hammer home the Dockers' dominance.
The Bombers created a partial rally in the final quarter with goals to Parish, Jye Menzie, and Merrett to move the visitors within twenty points, with just five minutes to play. Caleb Serong then stepped in for the Dockers, winning a center clearance which finished with a Michael Frederick goal; and then two minutes later, snapping one over his shoulder to quell the Bombers' hopes.
Next week the Dockers travel to Marvel Stadium to meet the Western Bulldogs, who will be coming off a bye and will be determined to buck the trend of teams losing after a week off. The game is a crucial to both teams who are battling for a spot in the top eight. Essendon will meet Port Adelaide Power at the MCG. Port are genuine top two contenders and the Bombers will start as underdogs, even though Port are coming off a bye. A loss for the Bombers could drop them out of the top eight.
Scores Fremantle Dockers: 3.3 8.7 12.8 14.9 (93) Essendon Bombers: 2.3 5.3 6.5 9.7 (61) Best Fremantle Dockers: Serong, Ryan, Brayshaw, Henry, Jackson Essendon Bombers: Martin, Merrett, McGrath, Parish, Hobbs
Article last changed on Saturday, June 24, 2023 - 4:54 PM EDT