Essendon VFL were outgunned by Gold Coast in their first interstate trip of the season on Saturday morning, going down 16.15 (111) to 14.9 (93).

The Suns were stronger starters, dominating much of the territory battle in the opening term but the Bombers looked efficient when forward half opportunities went their way, hitting the scoreboard through Dylan Shiel and Alwyn Davey Jnr.

Essendon gained some ascendancy in the second term, snatching the lead on a couple of occasions, but a five-minute lapse on the verge of half-time saw the Suns take a slight lead into the break.

Much of the second half went back-and-forth as the Bombers tried to peg back a three-goal margin, but the home side seemed to have a reply for every Dons push, even with their forward line up and running.

Jared Eckersley looked dangerous with three majors and slotted a late one to give the visitors an outside chance, but the Dons struggled to handle Ethan Read at the other end, whose five-goal effort ultimately made the difference.

With forward Nate Caddy out as an AFL emergency and Will Setterfield and Elijah Tsatas rejoining the VFL line-up, the Bombers opted for a different forward structure which paid dividends at stages, with vice-skipper Jackson Hately booting a season-high four goals (three coming in the final term as the Dons attempted a late fightback).

Another of the strong performers was Tex Wanganeen, who looked crafty off half back in arguably his best game of the season to date – especially early, his dash was critical in keeping the side’s transition game going.

Setterfield and Tsatas each won their share of inside ball, while returning midfielder Ben Hobbs accumulated 22 touches on restricted minutes in his first game since round 11.

The Dons look ahead to a clash with Collingwood at Windy Hill next Saturday.

GOLD COAST     3.2     6.5     11.9    16.15   (111)
ESSENDON      2.1     5.3     9.4     14.9  (93)

Hately 4, Eckersley 3, Toma, Shiel, Scott, O’Neill, Jedwab, A. Davey, J. Davey

Shiel, Wanganeen, Hately, Eckersley, Setterfield, Hobbs