The Essendon Bombers completed a surprising and convincing demolition of the West Coast Eagles to knock the big birds from the top of the ladder. The fleet-footed Bomber midfielders tore the Eagles apart in the first half, and their work was finished with flair and panache by Jake Stringer and Devon Smith up forward.
The Eagles’ Nic Naitanui had a slight edge over the Bombers' Tom Bellchambers in the ruck but Essendon cleared the ball from congested areas more efficiently. Bellchambers also took a number of strong marks around the ground. The Bombers concentrated on exploiting the Eagles’ lack of midfield pace by giving their speed machines freedom to take on their slower opponents. Fittingly, the Bomber’s first goal was initiated by the pace of Adam Saad. Dashing from half-back, Saad weaved his way past four Eagles’
midfielders and delivered accurately to Mitch Brown, who marked (caught the ball) and converted. Two minutes later, Saad chipped a kick across halfback to Conor McKenna who left Jamie Cripps floundering in his wake, when the Irishman sprinted through the center square and booted long to Jake Stringer, who marked and converted. Stringer booted three goals by quarter time, outpointing Will Schofield and Jeremy McGovern. The Eagles had no answer for the Bombers who made fifteen attacking entries to register six goals in the first term. The home team made seven tentative entries into their own attacking zone, but butchered their delivery and scored only one point.
The second quarter began with more of the same. The Bombers out-tackled and out-ran their opponents, who perhaps, mistakenly believed they were in for a routine evening. The Bombers owned the center corridor of the field, forcing the Eagles to play wide and slow. Zach Merrett and Kyle Langford were ball magnets for the Bombers. What they didn’t attract they went and got; and they racked up 13 contested possessions between them by the main break. Cale Hooker was dominant for Essendon in defense. What he couldn't mark, he punched clear to deny the Eagles’ stand-in full forward, Fraser McInness, any meaningful relationship with the ball.
The highlight of the quarter was a goal kicked by Anthony McDonald-Tipungwuti, who used balance and pace to sprint from a pack and snap accurately. After that score, the Eagles worked out how to stop the Bombers attacks. Andrew Gaff and Jack Redden lifted in the midfield and Brad Shepherd received more support from Elliot Yeo and Shannon Hurn in defense. At the 11-minute mark the Eagles booted their first goal, courtesy of a free kick to Naitanui after David Myers had taken him high. They then launched more attacks than the Bombers but were let down by their woeful kicking.
The third quarter was a more even contest. However, when the clinches got tight it was more often than not Essendon who cleared the ball into space. Both teams could manage one major each, as the defenses dominated play. Shannon Hurn used his body well to edge Stringer out of marking contests. Cale Hooker and Michael Hurley took plenty of useful defensive marks for Essendon and David Myers challenged the Eagles with numerous contested possessions.
In the final quarter the Eagles continued to show spirit, but they were never going to bridge the gap that Essendon established in the devastating first quarter. The Eagles added four goals and Essendon three, but the result was never in doubt. Essendon have now won four of their last five games and are playing an exciting brand of direct football. West Coast have lost two games in a row and appear to lack purpose, and desperation, without the twin towers of Jack Darling and Josh Kennedy up forward.
Next week the Eagles travel to Adelaide to try to find what they have lost, against the injury ravaged Crows. Essendon meet North Melbourne at Etihad Stadium and will be aiming to knock over the Kangaroos.
Scores West Coast Eagles 0.1 1.6 2.12 6.16 (52) Essendon Bombers 6.2 8.4 9.7 12.8 (88) Best West Coast Eagles: Gaff, Redden, Hurn, Yeo, Sheppard Essendon Bombers: Merrett, Heppell, Saad, Smith, Goddard
Article last changed on Thursday, June 21, 2018 - 3:30 PM EDT