The VFLW Bombers have returned to the winners list after defeating Hawthorn by 14 points at Box Hill City Oval on Saturday.
The Bombers struggled in the wet conditions and spent the majority of the game chasing the Hawks, but a late last-quarter surge allowed them to run away with the 4.5 (29) to 1.9 (15) victory.
WHAT. A. FINAL. QUARTER ??— Essendon VFLW (@essendonfcw) April 10, 2021
ESS 4.5 (29)
HAW 1.9 (15)
GOALS: Clifford 2, Frew, MacDonald pic.twitter.com/7brwN3erkw
Both teams fought with intensity from the opening bounce, with the ball being locked in contests for majority of the first quarter.
It took 15 minutes for the first goal to be scored through an off-the-ground kick from Mia-Rae Clifford giving the Bombers an early lead.
With the rain settling in, the Hawks quickly took control of the game early in the second quarter, locking the ball in their forward half and converting for their first major.
Midway through the second quarter, the Bombers suffered a significant blow with captain Georgia Nanscawen coming off with a calf injury.
Eloise Ashley-Cooper stood up to cover the loss of Nanscawen through the midfield, but the Hawks continued to pressure the Bombers and took a three-point lead into the main break.
The wet weather caused havoc during the third quarter as both teams were locked in contests and struggled to convert on the scoreboard.
The pressure was on the Bombers’ backs as the Hawks attempted to go forward. Eloise Gardner and Cecilia McIntosh didn’t give the opposition any space and cut off multiple scoring attempts with strong marks.
Ruck duo Lori Stepnell and Simone Nalder combined well to tackle the height of their opponents while Alex Morcom provided excellent run off the backline.
Debutants Zali Friswell and Kasey Lennox, who came up from the Calder Cannons’ NAB League side, didn’t look out of place in the Bombers’ side and were influential across the forward and back lines respectively.
After a goalless third term, the Bombers’ forwards were determined to overturn the deficit and came out with intent.
Federica Frew converted from a set shot to give the Bombers a two-point advantage before Natalie MacDonald snapped a goal from the pocket to further extend the lead.
The Bombers’ victory was sealed when Clifford scored her second major for the day late in the quarter.
Nanscawen was proud of her team’s attitude throughout the game and the way they continued to fight even when they were behind on the scoreboard.
“I’m super proud of the team. Personally, it was disappointing to not be able to get through the game, but the way the girls stayed in the game with their heads held high and fought right to the end (was pleasing),” Nanscawen said.
“We were down for quite a bit of the game and to see the character that we showed to get back into it and to be able to hold the lead, it makes me really proud.”
Nanscawen attributed the fourth-quarter resurgence to her teammates’ confidence in each other and their ability to stay composed under pressure.
“I think just the belief that we knew we were in it even though we were down. We knew they would throw everything at us and we were able to hold it,” she said.
“It was about being composed and playing smart in the rain as well. We really did that and some girls really stood up in that last quarter.”
The two debutants, Friswell and Lennox, also impressed Nanscawen in the way they seamlessly fitted into the side and played their roles.
“They showed why they deserved to pull on the jumper, they both fought really hard. Obviously, some tough conditions for a tall back (Lennox) but both of them kept fighting right through,” she said.
“It’s exciting to see players like that in our team.”
After her injury, Nanscawen was pleased with the team’s ability to be flexible and the way the way they quickly adapted to her absence on the field.
“I was exceptionally proud of how they adapted. It would have been easy for them to drop their heads when you lose anybody in the team, but they didn’t do that at all,” she said.
“They fought right to the end and I’m super proud.”
The Bombers will return home for to the NEC Hangar round seven next Saturday to host Williamstown from 11am.
ESSENDON 1.1 1.2 1.3 4.5 (29)
HAWTHORN 0.4 1.5 1.8 1.9 (15)
Goals: Clifford 2, Frew, MacDonald
Best: Stepnell, Gardner, McIntosh, Morcom, Ashley-Cooper, Nalder