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Dons too good on Good Friday

Rd 5 | Highlights The Kangaroos and Bombers clash in round five.

It was the four-minute patch that showed why Essendon can be a contender this season.

Deep into the second term of the Good Friday clash, the Bombers led North Melbourne by 11 points. The Roos, so it seemed, had managed to stop Essendon's relenting run and closed down their brilliant pace. 

But the Bombers had other ideas.  

Andy McGrath's kick out of a pack curled through before Anthony McDonald-Tipungwuti slotted a tight shot from the pocket.

Mitch Brown was the beneficiary of a big Tom Bellchambers mark, and then Orazio Fantasia snapped cleverly and, suddenly, Essendon was 35 points ahead. Blink and you miss these Bombers.  

 

It was Essendon at its scintillating, warp-speed best and was the defining period of its 58-point thrashing of the Roos under the Marvel Stadium roof.

After a listless opening two weeks, Essendon is now on a roll. Its 17.14 (116) to 7.16 (58) win was its third in a row, and the Bombers have averaged 18 goals a game in that stretch.

This one was based on a midfield dominance from the Bombers. Dylan Shiel was close to best afield, with the Roos having no answer for his dash and speed through the middle.

In his best game for the club, the former Giant gathered 13 disposals and five inside-50s in the second quarter alone as the Bombers ran away with the game. He finished with 36 disposals and 10 inside-50s, highlighting why the Bombers chased him so hard in last year's NAB AFL Trade Period.

Dyson Heppell (32 disposals) and Zach Merrett (39) were vital in the midfield battle, and along with Shiel the trio combined for 17 clearances. 

Essendon's midfield unit has been seen as the last piece of their puzzle, but after adding Shiel, and the emergence of McGrath in that role (he kicked two goals from 20 disposals against the Roos), it looks to finally have the depth in the middle to compete with the best. 

North had no answers. Its midfield was well beaten, its defence flat-footed and its forward line largely unthreatening. The Roos' stagnant approach played into the Bombers' plans, with Jared Polec (22 disposals), Trent Dumont (31) and Ben Cunnington (29, eight clearances) among the few strong contributors.

Even before the Bombers piled on the goals, the Roos' foot skills let them down and they didn't have the penetrating streak to cut through Essendon.

It was Essendon's day from the start, despite the Bombers only leading by 10 points at the first change. Inaccuracy plagued both teams early, but it was Essendon that looked more damaging.

The Bombers' midfield dominance in the second quarter took hold, and the floodgates opened thereafter.

Everyone joined the party, with Fantasia finishing with four goals, Mitch Brown continuing his good form with three majors, and defender Patrick Ambrose, who kept North spearhead Ben Brown to two goals, even sneaking forward to hit the scoreboard. 

Joe Daniher, in his first AFL game in nearly a year, didn't want to miss out. Nearly midway through the final term, Daniher, who was a late call-up for Zac Clarke (calf), marked at the top of the 50-metre line. 

 

The 2017 All Australian and Bombers best and fairest winner calmly walked back to his mark, trotted in and set sail, with his shot just clearing the pack on the goal line.

It was the icing on a very, very good Friday for the Bombers, and a forgettable one for North Melbourne that leaves them floundering at 1-4.

 

MEDICAL ROOM

North Melbourne: The Roos appeared to get through the game without any serious concerns.

Essendon: Anthony McDonald-Tipungwuti suffered a corked thigh early in the game but played out the contest and was a valuable contributor, and although Jake Stringer appeared to have some leg issues in the third term, he also was on the field at the final siren. David Zaharakis (knee) was a late withdrawal after suffering a deep gash last week.

NEXT WEEK

Essendon is in the midst of a blockbuster month and will play Collingwood on Anzac Day next Thursday at the MCG. North will be searching for its second win of the season when it heads to Adelaide Oval to face Port Adelaide next Friday night. 

NORTH MELBOURNE 1.6       3.7       4.12     7.16 (58)

ESSENDON     3.4       9.7       13.11   17.14 (116) 

GOALS

North Melbourne: B. Brown 2, Pittard, Zurhaar, Polec, Cunnington, Ahern

Essendon: Fantasia 4, M. Brown 3, McGrath 2, McDonald-Tipungwuti 2, Stringer 2, Daniher 2, Ambrose, Ham 

BEST

North Melbourne: Dumont, Atley, Cunnington, Anderson, Macmillan, Polec

Essendon: Shiel, Merrett, Heppell, Fantasia, McGrath, M. Brown, Guelfi

INJURIES

North Melbourne: Ahern (finger)

Essendon: Clarke (calf) replaced in selected side by Daniher, Zaharakis (infection) replaced in selected side by Ham, McDonald-Tipungwuti (quad)

Reports: Nil

Umpires: Hay, Meredith, Findlay

Official crowd: 48,278 at Marvel Stadium

The views in this article are those of the author and not necessarily those of the AFL or its clubs