GREATER Western Sydney coach Mark McVeigh accused his players of "checking out" last week, and got the response he wanted on Saturday with a 27-point win over Essendon at Giants Stadium.
The Giants brought increased intensity from the outset - including a pre-game scuffle - with their 14.12 (96) to 10.9 (69) win earmarked by 53-44 tackles including 16-1 inside 50 tackles, and 42-25 one percenters for the game.
In a topsy turvy game, where both sides had two three-goal runs each in the first half, Essendon had hit the lead for the first time early in the third term after Matt Guelfi kicked the third of his four goals, before GWS responded with a run of seven consecutive goals to pull away for victory.
Lachie Whitfield re-discovered his rebound and dash off half-back with a game-high 30 disposals for 549 metres gained and a fourth-quarter goal which sealed the win from Jayden Laverde's wayward central pass.
Former Rising Star winner Jesse Hogan was excellent up forward with a season-high four goals and 12 marks.
The victory snaps GWS's four-game losing run, with their response from last weekend's Sydney Derby hammering likely enhancing McVeigh's case to win the job permanently, given his widely discussed public condemnation of his side.
The Bombers had come into the game as one of the league's in-form sides, with their 5-2 record from the past seven games only bettered by top-two pair Geelong and Collingwood over that stretch.
GIANTS v BOMBERS Full match coverage and stats
The influence of in-form onballer Zach Merrett, who had 38 disposals last round, was quelled by close marking from Harry Perryman, with the Dons star restricted to 19 touches. The impact of running defenders Nick Hind and Mason Redman were blunted too.
Darcy Parish returned from a four-game lay-off due to a calf issue to be Essendon's best with 28 disposals including a game-high 14 contested possessions.
The Giants got off to a flying start with the game's first three goals before Essendon responded with three of their own to narrow the gap to two points at the first break. The game followed a similar pattern in the second, with GWS's pressure a highlight yet they only led by two points at half-time.
Early third term goals from Guelfi and Ben Hobbs put the Dons ahead by 10 points but the Giants were able to reassert control, having 53-37 inside 50s for the game, with Whitfield dominant while Hogan and Toby Greene, who kicked 2.2, were constant threats up forward.
McVeigh boosts his case for Giants gig
The Giants have been linked with a host of potential coaches - headlined by four-time premiership coach Alastair Clarkson - to take up their vacant post permanently following Leon Cameron's mid-season exit, but McVeigh shouldn’t be discounted on this evidence. McVeigh, who has worked within the Giants set-up since 2015, made a bold decision for a caretaker coach to publicly criticise his players after their 73-point Derby loss but he backed in his comments and got the desired reaction from his players. That's a big tick.
'I KNEW THEY WOULD RESPOND' McVeigh thrilled with Giants' effort
Stringer peripheral and goalless
Jake Stringer has never been a high-possession winner but his influence was minimal with only 12 touches, while he spurned three chances on goal, finishing with three behinds. The enigmatic Bombers star was in the thick of the pre-game scuffle, with his guernsey ripped over his shoulder, before giving away an off-the-ball free-kick to allow Harry Himmelberg to give GWS a two-goal lead within two minutes.
Terrific Taylor edges Wright in key battle
All-Australian contender Sam Taylor got the better of an entertaining battle with Peter Wright. The Dons forward booted two goals, extending his run of games with multiple goals to eight. Wright also took his season goals tally to 49, sitting fourth in the Coleman Medal race, but Taylor won plenty of one-on-one contests, finishing with a team-high nine intercepts with 14 disposals and eight marks for the game.
GREATER WESTERN SYDNEY 3.5 7.7 11.9 14.12 (96)
ESSENDON 3.3 7.5 9.8 10.9 (69)
Greater Western Sydney: Hogan 4, Greene 2, Coniglio, Himmelberg, Kelly, Bruhn, Perryman, Lloyd, Ward, Whitfield
Essendon: Guelfi 4, Wright 2, Langford, Stewart, Perkins, Hobbs
Greater Western Sydney: Whitfield, Hogan, Perryman, Kelly, Taylor, Coniglio
Essendon: Parish, Guelfi, Durham, Zerk-Thatcher, Draper
Greater Western Sydney: Peatling (concussion)
Greater Western Sydney: Tanner Bruhn (replaced Peatling in the second quarter)
Essendon: Massimo D'Ambrosio (unused)