Peter Wright celebrates Essendon's win over Carlton in R13, 2023. Picture: AFL Photos

ESSENDON has heaped more pressure on Michael Voss and Carlton after a stunning seven-goal third-quarter blitz led it to a 34-point King’s Birthday Eve victory over the Blues on Sunday night at the MCG.

Giant forward Peter Wright was the hero for the Bombers with five goals in his first game of 2023 following a shoulder injury on the eve of the season. Wright booted three of his five goals in Essendon's sensational third term as they opened up a 39-point lead.

BLUES v BOMBERS Full match coverage and stats

The Bombers had trailed by nine points after Harry McKay's goal late in the second quarter before kicking eight unanswered goals, running out winners 13.8 (86) to 6.16 (52) to claim their fourth straight win.

The win lifts Essendon above Adelaide into sixth on the AFL ladder with an 8-5 record, while the struggling Blues are mired in 15th having lost eight of their past nine games, with any finals aspirations seeming a long way off.


The Blues were not helped by their inaccuracy in front of goal, particularly when on top in the second term. Carlton won the inside 50s 56-41 but Essendon had more polish and more want, winning a lopsided tackle count 64-33.

Sam Walsh had 35 disposals without making a significant impact, while Brownlow medallist Patrick Cripps was relatively ineffective with only 19 touches.

Dons winger Nic Martin had the ball on a string, maintaining his excellent recent form with 13 first-quarter disposals, finishing with 30 including seven clearances, while Jake Stringer was strong around the contest with a game-high four centre clearances.


Essendon had plenty of winners including Jye Caldwell (25 disposals) and second-year onballer Ben Hobbs (24 disposals), along with rebounding defenders Mason Redman (23 disposals) and Jordan Ridley (20 disposals and seven intercept possessions).

The opening term was absorbing and intense with four lead changes, but it was also messy with 32 combined turnovers and 12 scoring shots for only three goals. Carlton's Alex Cincotta kicked the opener, a running shot from 60m, but Essendon had the early territory, with Wright getting their first.


The Blues improved around the contest in the second term, with Jack Martin's goal re-claiming their lead after a big collision between Blake Acres and Redman. But Carlton continued to waste chances in front of goal, including a McKay set shot.

McKay, however, breathed a major sigh of relief when he converted with a drop punt from a 40m set shot with five minutes left in the first half to open up a nine-point lead. Essendon hit back with quick goals from Will Snelling and Wright to earn the half-time lead despite Carlton having 18-7 inside 50s for the quarter.


Zach Merrett, who was switched forward after half-time to shake Ed Curnow's tag, initiated Essendon's third-term demolition with a goal within 45 seconds. Carlton wasn’t helped by free-kicks leading to set shot goals from Matt Guelfi and Andrew Phillips, but Essendon dominated the quarter with 13-6 clearances and converted its opportunities with 7.1 for the term.

Carlton tried to rally in the fourth but lacked the polish to genuinely concern the Bombers, who opted to sub off ruckman Sam Draper.


Two-metre Peter dominates on his return
Essendon has enjoyed a strong 2023 campaign under new coach Brad Scott without reigning best and fairest winner Wright, so his impact on his return offers further reason for optimism at Tullamarine as the Bombers chase an elusive finals win. Wright was dangerous, albeit rusty early, flying for several marks, but he broke the game open with his three majors in the third term as Carlton struggled to handle his height and movement, aided by Essendon's quality entries.


Bombers shake Curnow's Merrett tag
As expected, Ed Curnow went straight to Merrett at the opening bounce and put the clamps on in a tight first half, with Essendon leading by two points at half-time. Curnow restricted Merrett to eight disposals in the first half, with only three contested possessions. But Scott shook Curnow's tag by moving Merrett forward at the start of the third term and the captain kick-started the Bombers’ blitz with a goal within 45 seconds and then directly assisted Wright's third. Merrett finished with 18 touches, with younger mids Caldwell and Hobbs stepping up with the skipper going forward.


Curnow catches McKay's inaccuracy bug
Former Coleman medallist McKay's inaccuracy woes have been well documented this year, coming into this game lacking confidence in front of goal, having booted 17.18. McKay added another ugly chapter with a 30m left-foot snap from a set shot which failed to make the distance, with Redman rushing it through on the line. He did partly redeem himself by converting a 40m set shot later in the second quarter, but Curnow caught the inaccuracy bug, missing his first four shots including several from long range. Curnow was involved in a horror moment with Matt Owies too, both leaving Jack Silvagni's inside 50 pass for each other, spurning a simple mark and opportunity on goal.


CARLTON         1.5    3.10     5.10     6.16 (52)
ESSENDON     2.4    4.6     11.7    13.8 (86)

Carlton: C.Curnow 2, Cincotta, Martin, McKay, Owies
Essendon: Wright 5, Menzie 2, Langford, Snelling, Merrett, Guelfi, Phillips, Caldwell

Carlton: Cerra, Saad, C.Curnow, Walsh, Motlop
Essendon: Wright, Martin, Stringer, Ridley, Hobbs, Redman, Caldwell

Carlton: Nil
Essendon: Nil

Carlton: Nil
Essendon: Andrew Phillips comes into the selected side for Massimo D’Ambrosio

Carlton: Paddy Dow (replaced Jack Martin at three-quarter time)
Essendon: Massimo D’Ambrosio (replaced Sam Draper in the fourth quarter)

Crowd: 83,638 at MCG