ESSENDON has staged a remarkable second-half comeback to down Fremantle by four points at Patersons Stadium on Friday night and continue its unbeaten start to the season.
The Bombers, who came into the match after a tumultuous week off the field, trailed by 37 points in the second quarter but rallied with seven consecutive goals after the main break, eventually running out 10.12 (72) to 9.14 (68) winners.
Five talking points: Fremantle v Essendon
After scores were locked at 66 with five minutes remaining, Patrick Ryder kicked the match-winner, the Bombers ruckman threading a left-foot snap with 90 seconds remaining to leave the majority of the 35,963 in attendance at Patersons Stadium stunned.
Both Paul Duffield and Chris Mayne had last-minute chances to steal back the lead for Fremantle, but Mayne’s shot hit the post with just seconds remaining.
The siren heralded scenes of wild celebration from the Bombers, whose coach James Hird has come under heavy pressure to resign over the drugs controversy.
Fremantle's Nathan Fyfe tries to break the shackles applied by Essendon's Dyson Heppell at Patersons Stadium on Friday night. Picture: AFL Media
After the game, Hird said he would not stand aside.
I'm going nowhere: Hird
He said his players had rallied around him and he was extremely proud of the way they had fought back after Essendon looked set for a heavy defeat at half time.
"I think coming to Perth and beating Fremantle in the form they're in is a huge win,” he said.
"The club's under a lot of pressure in terms of the ASADA investigation so that adds a lot of weight to it.”
The Bombers, who kicked 28 goals against Melbourne last week, managed just one goal in the first half on Friday night as skipper Jobe Watson was held to just seven disposals.
But it was a different Watson and a different Essendon that took control in the second half, squeezing the life out of the home side.
Fremantle coach Ross Lyon said his side had more inside 50s, more marks inside the attacking 50, more clearances and more shots at goal, but said his players had wasted opportunities.
"I think there's a disappointment," he said.
"League football's brutal. I think we got three quarters pretty right. For whatever reason, the third quarter was really poor and they were really good.
"And at the end of the day you have got to take your opportunities."
It took Essendon until the nine-minute mark of the second quarter to register its first goal.
After losing All Australian defender Luke McPharlin to concussion in an incident with Ryder that is likely to come under the scrutiny of the match review panel, Fremantle took until the 11-minute mark of the first term to record the first goal of the match.
The home side then proceeded to kick another four before quarter-time and added a further two goals in the second quarter.
Hayden Ballantyne, Mayne, Nathan Fyfe and Michael Walters combined to good effect to help Fremantle kick away, though Matthew Pavlich was well beaten by Jake Carlisle.
The home side had planned well for Essendon’s midfield, forcing Watson to handball rather than kick thanks to the pressure of both Ryan Crowley and Matt de Boer.
But Brent Stanton did break free at times, while Michael Hibberd snuck under Fremantle’s guard.
Everything changed in the third quarter, and it was only through some errant Bombers’ kicking that Fremantle was able to retain its lead at the final change.
Hird said after the match that Dustin Fletcher had some groin tightness, while Michael Hurley didn’t appear to have broken his right wrist
ESSENDON 0.3 1.5 6.10 10.12 (72)
FREMANTLE 5.3 7.5 7.7 9.14 (68)
Crameri 3, Hurley 2, Kavanagh, Howlett, Kommer, Heppell, Ryder
Mayne 3, Fyfe 2, Walters 2, Ballantyne, Duffield
Hibberd, Carlisle, Hooker, Crameri, Ryder, Hurley
Duffield, Fyfe, Mundy, Barlow, Ballantyne, Walters
Hurley (right wrist)
McPharlin (concussed), Bradley (cut head)
Dustin Fletcher replaced by Travis Colyer in the third quarter
Luke McPharlin (concussion) replaced by Cameron Sutcliffe in the first quarter
Margetts, Farmer, Mollison
35,963 at Patersons Stadium
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