Essendon VFL has suffered its second defeat of the 2019 season despite a gutsy fourth-quarter comeback, going down to ladder-leader Richmond by just three points on Saturday afternoon.
The Dons trailed by 23 points at the nine-minute mark of the final term, before kicking three consecutive goals.
Unfortunately it wasn’t enough, falling ever so short in the 10.7 (67) to 10.10 (70) Sir Doug Nicholls Round thriller at the Swinburne Centre.
It was a tough and tight battle all day, which saw Richmond dominate early and open the game with a four-goals-to-one opening term.
Despite the slow start, Essendon turned things around in the second by lifting its pressure and bringing a newfound hunger and intensity to the contest.
The home side managed to push their lead out to a game-high 30 points close to 10 minutes into the second, but the Dons were finally able to get some reward for their efforts – booting four of the next five goals.
Outscoring the Tigers 4.1 to 3.1 was a small win for the Bombers, who were now trailing by just two goals at the main break.
Irving Mosquito celebrates one of two goals with Liam McKenna. (Image: AFL Photos)
Like the opening term, the beginning of the third quarter was all Richmond, but inaccuracy in front of goal – kicking 1.4 from its first five entries – meant Essendon was still within reach.
A few late goals however pushed the margin back out to 23 points at the final break. And while it seemed they may have been starting to run out of gas, Essendon wasn’t ready to admit defeat just yet.
Instead it was a Tigers’ lapse, which allowed the Dons to attack and capitalise, laying crunching tackles (70-49) and forcing turnovers to play on their terms.
Last-quarter goals to youngster Riley Bowman on debut, vice-captains Heath Hocking and Danny Younan, and senior-listed defender Brandon Zerk-Thatcher were inspiring and brought the Bombers within one kick of winning.
Danny Younan played a key role in the Bombers' stirring comeback attempt. (Image: Ben Johnstone)
But before Essendon could create another goal opportunity, the siren sounded and ended its hopes of a miracle come-from-behind victory.
Despite the heartbreak, the Dons ended up winning the inside-50 count 54 to 45, marks 89 to 65, and disposals 355 to 296.
The back six, led by Matt Dea (13 disposals, seven marks), Michael Hartley (17 disposals, four marks) and Zerk-Thatcher (16 disposals, 11 marks, one goal), were impressive all day, while Jake Long (19 disposals, six marks) and Liam McKenna (23 disposals, five tackles) brought aggression.
Dylan Clarke (26 disposals, five tackles), David Myers (25 disposals, five tackles) and Hocking (21 disposals, one goal) led the stats sheet.
Dylan Clarke was busy again against the Tigers, continuing his strong form. (Image: Ben Johnstone)
Marty Gleeson, Mitch Brown, Tom Jok and Trent Mynott all appeared to have successful returns after injury layoffs.
Senior coach Dan Jordan was extremely proud of his side’s efforts, but expects them to take some lessons from the game.
“I had no questions that the boys would come out and give it their best effort to try and win the game,” he said.
“I know the group pretty well, and I knew particularly in the loss to Casey they were quite disappointed with the result, so I knew they’d come out swinging and have a go.
“We spoke about playing four quarters and we didn’t – when you play the best sides you need to have four quarters of effort, intensity and mental aptitude.
“We were probably a bit off in that first quarter, but credit to the boys for being able to turn that around and respond when they were challenged.”
FULL TIME: A gutsy effort, but one to be extremely proud of.— Essendon VFL (@essendonvfl) May 25, 2019
ESS 10.7 67
RICH 10.10 70 pic.twitter.com/F1wpKQ7nxw
He was also pleased with the debut of Sandringham Dragons’ Riley Bowman, who was named the 23rd player.
“It was a great effort from (Riley). As a young kid coming into our group and not knowing our structure, we just asked him to compete around the ground and I thought he did that really well.
“It was great to see him get his hands on the footy and kick a goal as well, and I’m sure he’ll get some confidence out of that.
“He’s still playing under 18s in the NAB League so he should be able to go back there and dominate and use his performance as a springboard to try and get himself drafted.
“He definitely showed he’s capable of playing at VFL level, and to be able to do that at 19 years old means he’s got an exciting future ahead of him.”
Essendon now has an eight-day break and will look to get back in winning form when it returns home to take on Northern Blues from 11:40am on Sunday, June 2.
Essendon 1.2 5.3 6.4 10.7 (67)
Richmond 4.2 7.3 9.9 10.10 (70)
Goals: Baguley, Mosquito 2, Heppell, Ham, Bowman, Hocking, Younan, Zerk-Thatcher
Disposals: D. Clarke 26, Myers 25, McKenna 23, Hocking 21, Long 19
Brooke Varney is in the final year of her Bachelor of Communications (Journalism) degree at RMIT University. As part of their strategic partnership, Essendon Football Club and RMIT University are committed to providing opportunities for students, staff, players and the wider community.