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VFL Dons fall short

Aaron Francis played his first game for Essendon VFL. Photo: David Nelson

Essendon VFL has slipped out of the top eight after a 19-point loss to Footscray at Windy Hill on Sunday.

The Bombers were down to just one fit man on the bench late in the game but closed to within seven points during a tense final term, eventually losing 12.9 (81) to Footscray’s 15.10 (100).

Will Hams had a massive day and was dominant around the stoppages gathering 38 disposals while Aaron Heppell had 34 from the back half and Shaun Edwards had 29 touches and three goals.

In windy conditions, Essendon were forced to play catch up footy all day with the Bulldogs kicking the opening three goals before Jacob Thompson was able to kick the Bombers first at the Reynolds Stand end.

The Bulldogs controlled the play in the opening 15 minutes and had the majority of play in their forward half, but the Bombers responded late in the term to wrestle back some of the momentum.

A classy snap goal from Sam Heavyside was the highlight of the first quarter but the Bombers trailed by two goals at quarter time.

The second quarter played out much like the first with Footscray dominant early and stretching their lead to 35 points with the first three majors.   

Jordan Schroder kicked his first goal with some great crumbing work and snap before Yestin Eades and Thompson combined to get Sam Michael running into an open goal.

A late goal from the visitors gave them a 28-point advantage at the main break.

Sam Michael set the scene for the Bombers revival, courageously going back with the flight of the ball. The same contest claimed Thompson for the afternoon who took no further part in the game with an ankle injury.

It was a hot footy early in the third term and Footscray’s Josh Grabowski was able to kick the first goal. Some great work from an outnumbered Heavyside set up Nick Kommer for a classy dribble goal but a 50 metre penalty to Nathan Hrovat proved costly and restored a 33-point buffer.

Mark Jamar was having a big impact on the contest and marked strongly inside 50 but couldn’t convert, but he made amends soon after kicking a goal from close range before being sent cannoning into the goal post. The resulting fracas behind the goals brought the crowd and the Bombers to life.

Eades then smothered a ball with his face, gathered and ran in to kick a team lifting goal from 45 metres shortly before Jackson Merrett was able to close the margin to 15 points.

Grabowski steadied his side with another goal, but Schroder ensured the Bombers went into three quarter time break with momentum following another crumbing goal, using the outside of his boot from 40 metres out.

Another 50 metre penalty cost the Bombers with Grabowski was brought to within range and extended the lead early in the last term. VFL debutant Chris Peart found Shaun Edwards on the lead who kicked truly and another goal soon after from a scrimmage close to goal cut the deficit to seven points. 

With Thompson, Matt Dornauf and Ben Dobson already ruled out of the game, the task became even harder when Jack Langford was helped off by trainers with suspected concussion.

Footscray made the most of the wounded Bombers, kicking three of the last four goals to take the points.

Assistant coach Paul Corrigan said the Bombers effort again couldn’t be questioned.

“With four men out and down to one rotation, to be able to run the game out is a real positive,” Corrigan said.

“Our execution at times is something we want to clean up but you can’t doubt their endeavor over the four quarters.

“In the third quarter we really started to move the ball a lot better, we took what they gave us and that broke their defence open a little bit. We got some more inside 50’s and score on the board, we took the game on with our run, carry and handball.

“This week we will continue to work on our execution, the main thing that we want to rectify is getting off to good starts – not letting opposition get a start on us and then playing catch up footy.”

Hams, Heppell and Edwards were the standouts on the day.

“Hamsy was super around the contest, his transition work both forward and into defence was really good,” Corrigan said.

“Heppell down back I thought his contest work and one on ones and then to give us some drive off half back was great and Shaun Edwards on the wing played his role getting up and back and finished with three goals.”

Jackson Merrett finished the day with 27 disposals, Jordan Schroder 22 and two goals, Daniel Coghlan 22, debutant Chris Peart 20, Josh Freezer 19 while Nick Kommer and Jason Ashby each had 18 touches.

Making his awaited Bomber debut, Aaron Francis was an important player late in the game. The number six draft pick played back for the majority of the day but was swung forward late. Francis finished with 11 disposals with six marks, showing plenty of promising signs as he worked himself into the game.

The loss sees the Bombers fall from fifth spot to tenth and four points outside the top eight.

Essendon 12.9 (81) lost to Footscray 15.10 (100).

Goals; Edwards 3, Schroder 2, Eades, Merrett, Jamar, Kommer, Thompson, Heavyside and Michael.