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Match report: Tough Blues break their duck in the wet

Highlights: Carlton v Essendon The Blues and Bombers clash in round three
MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - APRIL 09: Michael Hurley of the Bombers and Jacob Weitering of the Blues collide during the 2017 AFL round 03 match between the Carlton Blues and the Essendon Bombers at the Melbourne Cricket Ground on April 09, 2017 in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Michael Willson/AFL Media)
Michael Hurley and Jacob Weitering collide in a sickening incident at the MCG

CARLTON has staged an upset win over Essendon, ending the Bombers' unbeaten start to the year with a 15-point victory in a slog at the MCG.

Melbourne's torrential rain throughout the contest made scoring a challenge, but Carlton largely had the upper hand during the day to notch its first win of the season.

Full match coverage and stats

The Bombers will see the defeat as a missed opportunity, having come into the game on the back of consecutive wins to start their 2017 campaign. But it was the Blues who did the basics best to grind out the 7.15 (57) to 6.6 (42) win.

Essendon's previous wins were built from a pacier forward line but the Blues were able to silence Essendon's fleet of smalls, with Orazio Fantasia, Anthony McDonald-Tipungwuti and Travis Colyer combining for just one goal.

Carlton captain Marc Murphy continued his excellent start to the season with 32 disposals and two goals in a dominant midfield performance, while Bryce Gibbs (35 touches) and Patrick Cripps (24) were also influential.

Murphy's stroke of genius sinks Essendon

But it was also a smattering of newer and younger faces – Sam Petrevski-Seton, Lachie Plowman and Jarrod Pickett – who did enough to make Blues fans confident about the future.

"We've got a mantra of continuing to grow and learn, and when you've got conditions like that, it comes back to a little bit of old-school days," said an upbeat Carlton coach Brendon Bolton after the game.

"You've got to win the contested possession and tackle count. It's not pretty, and it's a bit about heart, and with such a young side I'm extremely proud."

WATCH: Gritty Murphy shows his mettle

Essendon was served well by its midfield – Dyson Heppell, Brendon Goddard, Zach Merrett and Jobe Watson all had 28 disposals or more – but they lacked the same zip and impact of previous weeks.

The drenching wet weather also curtailed any advantage the Bombers might have had with their tall forwards, with Joe Daniher and Cale Hooker kicking just a goal each.

Coach John Worsfold said the Bombers are still finding the chemistry required to sustain their performances.

"It is disappointing, but it's probably highlighted a few areas that we knew we need to work on," he said after the game.

"There were no surprises in some of the things we need to get better at and that's going to be [getting] a bit more chemistry and more games together."

It was clear early on in the contest that scoring would be at a premium. Carlton was able to restrict Essendon's running game for most of the first term, but threw away its chance for an early break with inaccuracy around goal.

The Blues had control of parts of the opening quarter and led in inside 50s and scoring shots, but the Bombers' efficiency when they found space saw them take an eight-point advantage into quarter time.

But Carlton, searching for its first win of the season, wasn't prepared to stop there. By half-time the Blues had edged their way to a one-point lead after kicking two goals to one for the quarter.

The conditions produced a struggle between the sides, with countless missed handballs and fumbles due to the greasy ball.

But the distinction in style was clear: the Bombers wanted to flick the ball around and run in waves through the middle of the ground, while the Blues were happy to chip the ball and take a patient approach.

Carlton's decision to send tagger Ed Curnow to Merrett curtailed the best and fairest winner's influence a little (despite 16 disposals at half-time) but it also allowed Watson and Heppell a freer run at things, with the pair collecting 39 disposals between them to the main break.

But with a forward structure that wasn't functioning well, the Bombers couldn't break through the Blues, who were held together by a disciplined defensive unit and confident midfield crop.

The battle to hit the scoreboard continued in the third term – aside from a brilliant goal from the pocket by Murphy, who sized up his chances and then saluted with a checkside kick in front of Carlton fans braving the weather.

Murphy's major the last of the third term, helping Carlton to a four-point lead at the final change. It could have been more, too, as the Blues peppered the goal mouth and heaped pressure on a shaky Essendon defence.

 

Petrevski-Seton, the Blues' first pick at last year's draft, showed his class while others' struggled to hit targets, with the West Australian snapping a smart goal and being a constant threat at ground level.

 

The three-quarter time lead might not have seemed like much at the last break, but it was enough to give the Blues confidence that one goal might be a big enough break. And so it was. Curnow's snap seven minutes in to the last term gave the Blues enough breathing space to hold on to the win.

MEDICAL ROOM
Carlton: No.1 draft pick Jacob Weitering was helped from the field after a clash of heads with Michael Hurley in the second term, but returned early in the third quarter with a bandaged head.

  Essendon: Speedy midfielder Travis Colyer was crunched in a heavy bump at the start of the last term. He took a little while to get to his feet but played out the game.

NEXT UP
The Bombers head to Adelaide to face the unbeaten Crows in what shapes as a very difficult task. They play at Adelaide Oval on Sunday afternoon. Carlton, meanwhile, will host the Gold Coast at Etihad Stadium on Saturday night.

CARLTON        1.5   3.10    5.14   7.15   (57)          
ESSENDON      3.1   4.3     6.4     6.6   (42)                  

GOALS
Carlton: Murphy 2, Cripps, Kreuzer, Petrevski-Seton, Curnow, Kerridge
Essendon: Daniher, Hooker, McDonald-Tipungwuti, Parish, Goddard, Leuenberger, Langford

BEST 
Carlton: Murphy, Gibbs, White, Plowman, Curnow, Cripps, Docherty
Essendon: Watson, Hurley, Heppell, Goddard, Parish, Merrett, Kelly

INJURIES 
Carlton: Weitering (head), White (back)
Essendon: Nil

Reports: Nil

Umpires: Fisher, Pannell, Jeffery

Official crowd: 48,022 at the MCG