Essendon VFL coach Mark Corrigan says his side’s ability to regroup under scoreboard pressure was pleasing in the Bombers’ five-point comeback victory over Geelong on Monday.

The Bombers were bright early, led by a brigade of AFL-listed young guns including draftees Ned Cahill and Harry Jones who were repeatedly dangerous against the wind in the opening term.

Early inaccuracy from the Cats saw Essendon take a one-point lead into the first change and little changed in the second quarter with the Bombers adding one goal via Muhammad Saad – brother of senior Bomber Adam – to Geelong’s two.

Senior recruit Tom Cutler joined the field in the second half and had an immediate impact, covering the ground brilliantly through the midfield and pushing forward for a valuable goal against the tide.

The breeze did wonders for the Cats in the third term as they put four goals on the board to put the Dons on the back foot and take a 23-point lead into the final change.

But the Bombers weren’t willing to give in, entering the last term with the wind at their backs as they went to work and regained control of the match.

Big-bodied Don Liam McKenna was outstanding, leading the way with two big goals in the final quarter, while Cutler and Jones – who was terrific in the air all day – chimed in to reclaim the lead. Geelong could only boot a lone behind against Essendon’s staunch defenders, seeing the Bombers claim the narrow victory. 

Corrigan said it was tough work at the coalface and drive from the back half in the final term that paid dividends as the Dons chased down the Cats.

“The first half proved to be quite an even contest before the third quarter belonged to Geelong with complete dominance in all areas,” Corrigan said.

“Geelong was able to play the game in their half and convert this dominance into scores.

“After regrouping at three-quarter time, it was great to see the response from our boys to work their way back into the game.

“Our ability to win the ball at stoppages and counterattack off half-back enabled us to eventually come away with the win in what was a tight contest.”

Corrigan lauded the efforts of Cahill and fellow red and black debutant Mitch Hibberd, who showed good fight on the ball throughout the game.

“It was Mitch’s first game in Essendon colours and he was a real presence around the stoppages. His stoppage work and spread from contest was very good.

“Ned was also playing his first game and kicked a goal with his first kick. He had a huge work rate and was busy for four quarters.”

He also praised Jones and big-bodied forward Josh Begley for their performances in the victory.

“As a forward, Josh’s defensive pressure a highlight for four quarters. He was clean around the contest and showed great composure with ball in hand.

“Harry also had a huge work rate and competed really well up forward and finished the day with four shots on goal.”

GEELONG   1.6    3.6    7.11  7.12 (54)
ESSENDON 2.1    3.5    4.6    8.11 (59)

Essendon: L. McKenna 2, Cutler 2, Jones, M. Saad, Cahill, Begley