Highlights: Essendon v Collingwood
The Bombers and Pies clash in round 5
Essendon skipper Jobe Watson celebrates a goal during the big win over the Magpies
ESSENDON remains unbeaten and has snapped its seven-match losing streak against Collingwood with a 46-point win over the Magpies in a stirring Anzac Day clash at the MCG.
In front of 93,373 people – the third largest home and away crowd in VFL/AFL history – the Bombers led for most of the afternoon before prevailing 18.13 (121) to 10.15 (75)
Five talking points: Essendon v Collingwood
The win makes a mockery of suggestions the Bombers would find it hard to back up week after week amid the ASADA investigations and a daily diet of headlines, usually for the wrong reasons.
And yes, the Bombers have enjoyed some flying starts in seasons' past, but there is something different and better about the class of 2013.
Click here to vote for the three best Essendon players from the game
They have a stronger backline, more depth through the midfield and an abundance of big man options close to goal.
This win was achieved without walk-up best 22 selections; the suspended ruckman Paddy Ryder and the injured Michael Hurley.
So into the breech stepped David Zaharakis with four goals and Jason Winderlich with three.
Collingwood has been exposed by small forwards in the past and Winderlich was the key in the third term, with two goals as the Bombers kicked 6.6 to 3.2 to extend a four-point lead at half-time into 24 points at the final change.
The margin at the final change might have been even closer had the Pies enjoyed the rub of the green from the umpires. Bomber forwards Scott Gumbleton and Tom Bellchambers were recipients of a pair of soft free kicks for holding that both converted close to three-quarter time.
Winderlich is a wonderful story, coming back so strongly after an ACL injury that sidelined him this time last year.
The Pies kicked two early goals in the final term to get back within 12 points, before the Bombers slammed on the next six goals to record yet another satisfying win this season.
"We played some good football for the majority of the game," said a pleased Bombers coach James Hird
"We felt at half-time that the second half of the second quarter that the game was getting away from us and Collingwood was certainly scoring too easily and getting too many inside 50s against us, so I just had to remind our players of the value of defence and the value of making sure that we pick up a man … and defence properly. And they responded really well."
Essendon skipper Jobe Watson was outstanding yet again with 31 touches, and after a quiet start Brent Stanton was super, also with 31 possessions.
In addition to his four goals, Zaharakis had 34 possessions and won the Anzac Day Medal for best afield. The match-winner here four years ago, he has a big place in his heart for Anzac Day footy.
At the other end, Jake Carlisle put an exclamation mark on signing a new deal with the Bombers by keeping the red-hot Travis Cloke to just two goals.
Carlisle sent a scare through the Bombers when he landed awkwardly on his ankle in the third term and left the ground for treatment, but he returned to the ground in the final term and the damage appeared to be minimal.
Steele Sidebottom was great for the Magpies with 31 touches, while Dane Swan (30) and Scott Pendlebury (29) were tireless as usual.
Click here to vote for the three best Collingwood players from the game
When the Pies threatened for a time in the third term, that pair won some key centre clearances.
But the Pies have an injury list as long as your arm and while the Bombers were clear and deserved winners in this one, the Pies really missed midfield reinforcements such as Luke Ball and Dayne Beams, their depth players finding the occasion just a bit too daunting.
"They were more persistent and their work rate over the full four quarters was really strong," Collingwood coach Nathan Buckley said
. "They turned us over in close and were able to score heavily in the second half, which is a disturbing trend."
The Pies were also left lamenting some poor conversion. They kicked just 1.8 from set shots for goal in the first half and their score at the long interval was 4.12.
And they suffered another blow in the final term when defender Alan Toovey left the field with what was later confirmed to be a ruptured ACL
The Bombers have a nine-day break before hosting Greater Western Sydney at Etihad Stadium, while the Magpies are back at the MCG on Friday week when they host St Kilda.
The teams run out in front of a special Anzac Day banner. Picture: AFL Media
ESSENDON 2.3 6.4 12.8 18.13 (121)
COLLINGWOOD 1.5 4.12 7.14 10.15 (75)
Zaharakis 4, Winderlich 3, Gumbleton 2, Merrett 2, Watson 2, Davey 2, Bellchambers 2, Crameri
Blair 2, Pendlebury 2, Goldsack 2, Cloke 2, Sidebottom, Elliott
Zaharakis, Watson, Winderlich, Stanton, Goddard, Carlisle, Hibberd
Swan, Pendlebury, Reid, Sidebottom, Shaw
Alan Toovey (left knee)
David Myers replaced Travis Colyer in the third quarter
Tyson Goldsack replaced Ben Sinclair in the third quarter
Rosebury, Meredith, Mollison
93,373 at the MCG
Ashley Browne is an AFL Media senior writer. @afl_hashbrowne