A six-goal performance from Patrick Ambrose has steered Essendon to a 15-point VFL win over Frankston at Windy Hill on Sunday.
In his fourth game back from a foot injury that sidelined him in 2020, the 29-year-old proved the difference in a tight battle, as the Bombers ran away from the Dolphins in a 12.11 (83) to 10.8 (68) victory.
Right out of the gate, it was clear Frankston was hungry for the ball, consistently pushing forward and having plenty of inside 50s, but the Bombers’ defensive pressure was strong and counteracted many of the Dolphins’ forward efforts.
Essendon was able to continue to dominate defensively, leading the tackle count 13 to five at the halfway point of the quarter.
Despite this, the rest of the first term saw a pretty even contest between the two sides, with Frankston outscoring Essendon three goals to two and finish the quarter with a three-point lead.
The second quarter saw both teams continue to fight for dominance, and while Essendon saw its fair share of the ball in its forward half, Frankston’s backline had strength in numbers.
Ned Cahill was again a huge influence for the Dons. The 20-year-old was skillful through the midfield in creating strong leads but was also able to dominate defensively. This was on display when he made a spectacular tackle inside 50, earning a free kick and converting.
The Bombers impressed with their intensity and ball movement throughout midfield, thanks in particular to the efforts of co-captain Joe Atley and Sam Conforti, but struggled to do anything with the ball when it entered their attacking 50. This enabled the Dolphins to enter the main break in front by eight points.
Entering the second half, Alec Waterman teamed up with ruckman Nick Bryan to clear the first centre bounce and produce a clean forward-50 entry. This resulted in a free kick for Ambrose, who was able to get the Dons on the scoreboard with his third goal of the day.
An impressive mark inside the goal square by Brady Rowles put the Dons back in front for the first time since early on in the first quarter, but Frankston was able to fight back to hold a two-point lead at three-quarter time.
Despite Frankston earning the first major of the final quarter, the Bombers were able to sustain the intensity and momentum they had developed through the last half of the game.
Ultimately this allowed them to outscore the away team, with Ambrose continuing to make a contribution to Essendon’s forward line with a further two goals as the Dons sealed the deal with a 15-point win.
Head coach Leigh Tudor said he was impressed with the pressure the Bombers were able to put on Frankston, which he said was a key focus heading into the game.
“Our biggest thing was to put pressure on them. They’re a really good switching team and I thought we put a lot of pressure on and they kicked it back to us a fair bit which was our plan,” Tudor said.
“I thought our boys did that for the majority of the day really well. I didn't think (Frankston) got to switch and have their open-play run like they wanted to - I was happy with that.”
Overall, Tudor was happy with the team's effort and particularly impressed with the performances from the senior-listed players.
“I just thought it was a really good effort because both sides had a crack and they had to fight really hard for the win and I thought they did that,” he said.
“I thought Nick Bryan, [Brandon] Zerk-Thatcher and Patty Ambrose really went the way for us today. They just kept presenting and they showed great leadership.”
The Bombers will return to Windy Hill to face North Melbourne at 2:05pm on Saturday, in what will be a double header with the VFLW Bombers, who will also face North Melbourne at 10am.
ESSENDON 2.4 3.8 7.8 12.11 (83)
FRANKSTON 3.1 5.4 7.6 10.8 (68)
Goals: Ambrose 6, Rowles 2, Cahill, Goater, Hickman, McLarty
Disposals: Atley 29, Baker 27, O’Kearney 26, Waterman 25, Cahill 21, Conforti 21