Essendon's VFLW side salvaged a draw against the Southern Saints at the NEC Hangar on Sunday to maintain its unbeaten start to the 2022 season.

In a topsy-turvy encounter, the Bombers surrendered a 14-point half-time lead to trail by 14 at three-quarter time, keeping the Saints scoreless in the final stanza to secure the 7.4 (46) to 7.4 (46) draw.

A dejected Mia-Rae Clifford at the final siren. (Photo: Bray Taylor)

The Bombers looked destined for their first loss, until Courtney Ugle converted a 50m penalty from the top of the goal-square to level the scores with two minutes remaining.

MATCH CENTRE: PLAYER + TEAM STATS

The fourth-placed Saints provided the first genuine challenge for the Bombers, who were without the club's inaugural AFLW signing Georgia Nanscawen (knee) and star recruit Sarah Ford (managed).

Irish recruit Joanne Doonan stepped up in midfield in Nanscawen's absence, collecting 13 disposals and a game-high seven tackles.

Fellow recruit Amelia Radford continued her ball-winning ways with team-highs in disposals (19) and clearances (six), while Federica Frew and Kendra Heil led the goalkicking with two apiece.

The second-placed Bombers will have a bye this week, before another tough assignment against Geelong at Deakin Oval on March 27.

They're expected to regain co-captain Nanscawen, while talented recruits Bella Clarke and Bella Ayre are set to be available for selection.

ESSENDON  3.0  5.2  5.2  7.4 (46)
SOUTHERN SAINTS  3.0  3.0  7.4  7.4 (46)

Goals: Frew 2, Heil 2, Manfre, Ugle, Zanchetta

Disposals: Radford 19, Ashley-Cooper 18, Marshall 18, Zanchetta 16