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Match report: Round 21

BTV: Rd 21 | Heppell post-game We spoke to captain Dyson Heppell following our round 21 match against the Western Bulldogs.

Never has 20 seconds of football looked so different to the match it was played in.

In that 20 seconds – the opening 20 seconds of Saturday night's clash – Essendon won the ball out of the first bounce, got it forward and kicked a nice goal through Dylan Shiel.

They didn't kick another for the next 108 minutes.

During that time, the Western Bulldogs provided a lesson in almost every facet of the game.

Through a sheer weight of numbers and quality ball winners, the Dogs piled on an incredible 21 unanswered goals to lay the foundations for an emphatic 104-point victory..

The 21 straight majors the Bombers conceded were the second-most successive goals ever recorded in AFL/VFL history, falling just short of the 23 Geelong managed against Fremantle last year.

In terms of the finals picture, Essendon's past two weeks have also now seen its percentage dip from 104.3 to 93.8.

The 21.11 (137) to 4.9 (33) win ensures the Dogs' season lives another day. But on this form, they can start to believe in miracles. Although they must be near-perfect over the next fortnight to make the eight, near-perfection was what they reached at Marvel Stadium.

For the Bombers, the tale is less flattering. Now comprehensively beaten by two sides pushing for their place in the top-eight in successive weeks, coach John Worsfold faces form and fitness issues heading towards September.


It was a dirty night for the Bombers. (Photo: AFL Photos)

Josh Dunkley was the standout, winning 39 disposals, seven clearances and a goal.

Jack Macrae and Lachie Hunter also won in excess of 30 touches, while Patrick Lipinski and Marcus Bontempelli helped the Dogs have five of the leading six ball winners.

Meanwhile, Bailey Dale, Toby McLean, Josh Schache, Tory Dickson, Aaron Naughton and Will Hayes were all among multiple goalkickers in a comprehensive Dogs win.

Rattling through those ball winners was important in telling the story of the game, as the key statistical areas largely depicted the way the one-sided contest unfolded.

The Dogs won disposals by 124, contested possessions by 36 and inside 50 entries by 29, completely overwhelming their far inferior midfield opponents at the coal face.

Most of that damage was done in the opening stages of the game.

Dunkley had 16 disposals, 11 contested possessions, five clearances and a goal by the first break, while Hunter and Macrae were next in the queue on the stats sheet.

While tagger Dylan Clarke had gone to Bontempelli, the Bombers simply must have been considering a change in thinking when it looked at Dunkley's 25 touches at half time.

His dominance came as Essendon went 37 minutes without a single score, with the game as good as won for the Western Bulldogs as it claimed a 54-point half-time lead.

Renowned as one of the best teams by hand throughout their premiership season in 2016, the famous 'Handball Club' at the Whitten Oval must have recently reformed. The way the Bulldogs moved the ball in congestion was clean, smooth and incredibly damaging.

In contrast, the Bombers found the footy so rarely it looked as though they didn't know what to do with it when it eventually entered their possession. They squandered passages through the middle, let down their forwards with poor entries and suffered on the turnover.

If the Dons thought it could only get better after half-time, they were sorely mistaken.

A turnover on the last line of defence resulted in the 12th straight Bulldogs goal, who might have felt more pressure on their 13th and 14th major during Friday's captain's run.

The margin was 89 points at three-quarter time. By the six-minute mark of the final term, the lead had surpassed triple figures. Only a goal could provide relief. Eventually, after nearly an entire game without kicking one, Anthony McDonald-Tipungwuti broke the run.

When it rains, it pours. That started a run of three straight Dons goals to finish the game.

However, needless to say, the damage had been done.

 

MEDICAL ROOM

Essendon: Shaun McKernan went to the rooms midway through the second quarter to have his hamstring assessed but returned to play out most of the game before again finishing on the bench.
Western Bulldogs:
In another positive, the Dogs finished with a clean bill of health. 

NEXT UP

Essendon heads across the country to meet Fremantle at Optus Stadium next Saturday night, while the Western Bulldogs are also travelling interstate to meet new rivals Greater Western Sydney at Giants Stadium on Sunday afternoon.

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