FOR ESSENDON, it was the game they were expected to win, were expecting to win but, finally, couldn't win.
For the Brisbane Lions, it was perhaps the lack of expectation that was the biggest motivation in causing the upset of the season, a 10-point win over the Bombers at Etihad Stadium on Saturday.Five talking points: Essendon v Brisbane Lions
Fittingly, after 18 lead changes, it was Brent Staker who kicked the match-sealing goal
with less than a minute remaining, putting a full stop on the Lions' 14.12 (96) to 12.14 (86) victory.Click here to vote for the three best Brisbane Lions players from this game
Staker, who played his first game since 2011 after terrible knee injuries, won a free for being tripped 45 metres out from goal, next to the boundary. With the Lions ahead by four points but the Bombers pressing, Staker coolly slotted the win.
The Bombers were rampant in several of the key indicators, like clearances, inside-50s and contested possessions, but were out-tackled (73-45), out-muscled and out-bustled. In the end, the Lions did enough to achieve their first win in Melbourne since round 13 last year.
Their approach was grounded in aggression and physicality, and coach Michael Voss said it was a focus pre-game
"Well it was because our starts have been so poor. We didn't focus on too much during the week except for just getting our start right," Voss said after the breakthrough win.
"To do that you've got to be able to bring a physical presence, and I thought that it was probably the toughest that we've played for a long period of time.
"When you have those you always have borderline contests, but that's the game and that's how physical you've got to play and you've got to test those boundaries sometimes. The guys certainly did put their bodies on the line in the first quarter and they set it up for the rest of the match." Counterpart James Hird said he was "very disappointed"
in the result and traced it back to a poor training session on Thursday.
"I've said all year that we've played the way we've trained, and I thought our training on Thursday was pretty disappointing and we went into the game with that sort of intensity," he said.
"This group has done so well to train and work hard through the pre-season so far, and today wasn't a great day. We own that it wasn't a great day and we'll move on with next week."
The Lions' fierce and fiery mindset is set to have repercussions at the Match Review Panel on Monday.Click here to vote for the three best Essendon players from this game
First came Daniel Merrett's sling tackle on Michael Hurley
early in the opening term, which saw Hurley stripped of the ball and then swung into the ground over the boundary line.
Hurley, who has endured a tough run with injury, continued his luckless streak, and was subbed out of the game with no disposals to his name.
Michael Hurley in the hands of trainers after a strong tackle from
Daniel Merrett. Hurley would be substituted out of the game with
concussion. Picture: AFL Media
Later that term fourth-gamer Justin Clarke effected a late bump on a marking Elliott Kavanagh
, which left the young Bomber floored and resulted in Essendon's first goal, a down the field free kick taken by Jobe Watson.
Kavanagh returned to kick the first goal of a seesawing second quarter, but the Lions' pressure around the ball didn't relent. Neither did their tactical nous; with Andrew Raines and Rohan Bewick curtailing important Essendon runners Brent Stanton and Michael Hibberd.
After trailing by seven points at half-time the Lions kicked three of the first four goals of the third quarter to jump to an eight-point lead.
The lead kept swapping throughout the term and the Lions' could have extended their break to nine points at the last change, had co-captain Jonathan Brown kicked straight after the siren.
He made amends soon after, although in controversial fashion, when Brown took a mark on the goalline. The mark was sent for a video review
and replays suggested it was over the line, but the vision was deemed inconclusive. Brown snapped the goal, his second of the day in a return to form, and gave the Lions the momentum.
Others kept leading the way. Matthew Leuenberger didn't have many possessions but won 43 hit-outs in a dominant display, and Jack Redden had 22 disposals while limiting Watson.
The Bombers' performance had shades of its effort two weeks ago against Greater Western Sydney, when they fell to a shock 28-point lead before charging home to win.
On Friday, before the game, coach James Hird said he hoped that sort of showing wouldn't repeat. It did, but this time they couldn't fight their way out of trouble.
A Justin Clarke charge on Eliott Kavanagh causes spot-fires to break out at Etihad Stadium in the first quarter. Picture: AFL Media
3.1 7.6 10.9 12.14 (86) BRISBANE LIONS
3.4 6.5 11.7 14.12 (96) GOALS
Bellchambers 2, Heppell 2, Crameri 2, Watson, Meyers, Kavanagh, Hocking, Ryder, HowlettBrisbane Lions
: Zorko 3, Brown 2, Leuenberger, Redden, Black, Lisle, Hanley, Raines, Polkinghorne, Moloney, Staker BESTEssendon
: Heppell, Goddard, Carlisle, Watson, Hibberd, ZaharakisBrisbane Lions
: Zorko, Redden, Leuenberger, Polkinghorne, Raines, Lester, Bewick, Brown INJURIESEssendon
: Michael Hurley (concussion)Brisbane Lions
: TBC SUBSTITUTESEssendon
: Ben Howlett replaced Michael Hurley (concussion) in the first quarterBrisbane Lions
: Sam Mayes replaced Simon Black in the third quarter Reports
: Nil Umpires
: Wenn, Pannell, Fisher Official crowd:
: 33,915 at Etihad Stadium