ESSENDON is all but assured of its first AFLW finals series after thumping a disappointing Carlton by 32 points at Windy Hill on Saturday afternoon.
The Bombers held the Blues scoreless for the first half, maintaining their lead through the remainder of the game to coast to the 8.8 (56) to 3.6 (24) victory.
BOMBERS v BLUES Full match coverage and stats
It's a third consecutive loss for a rebuilding Carlton side that had started the year strongly and was in a position for a surprise finals appearance midway through the season.
Given their strong percentage, the Bombers are now highly unlikely to slip out of the top eight and should play their first AFLW finals series next month, in just their second year in the competition.
Essendon captain Bonnie Toogood wasted no time in bringing up her 50th career goal after several attempts late last week, shaking off Harriet Cordner to snap truly.
Unlike in last week's loss to West Coast, the Bombers took advantage of the breeze the first time they had use of it, locking the ball in their attacking half and adding 2.5 on the scoreboard from their 10 inside 50s to just two.
The Blues managed to stem the flow marginally with their turn with the wind, but just could not get a scoring shot away, struggling to maintain structure around the ground and simply not getting their hands on the footy.
Such was Essendon’s dominance, Toogood alone had taken six forward-half marks to Carlton's two by the opening minutes of the third quarter.
The Blues were without skipper Kerryn Peterson (managed), Jess Dal Pos (fibula) and Phoebe McWilliams (Achilles), who would have all provided a steadying hand to the young side as the game careened out of control in the first half.
The margin blew out to a game-high 42 points before Carlton got its first score on the board four minutes into the third, with Erone Fitzpatrick converting the side's maiden goal minutes later.
Carlton swung Cordner into attack in the final term, the key defender booting her second and third goals in two weeks, having last kicked a major back in 2017.
Maddy Prespakis (28, seven clearances) starred against her former side, and was ably assisted by Georgia Nanscawen (18 and six) in the stoppages, while Georgia Clarke provided a steady head in defence.
It was tough to find too many winners for the Blues, but Abbie McKay (25, five clearances) and Keeley Sherar (15, four and eight tackles) battled hard, while Breann Moody (30 hitouts, 11 disposals) had the better of the ruck battle.
Sophie's sparkling show
It was game No.50 for Essendon key forward Sophie Alexander, and she celebrated in style, kicking three goals in the swirling wind. Her first was a sharp execution from the pocket and she celebrated accordingly, not letting up from that point. It's a career-high tally for Alexander, who is forming a dangerous one-two punch with Toogood.
Starved of the footy
Essendon's monster first half was built on the back of winning and retaining the football, it was as simple as that. The Bombers were 22 ahead in the contested ball at half-time, with the Blues only closing that gap to 19 at the last break. Where Carlton made the most inroads to help them finally get on the scoreboard was the uncontested ball, dragging that in from minus-30 to 20 in the third term.
Essendon will be playing off for elimination final hosting rights next week when it meets Gold Coast in Mackay. Carlton's finals hopes are now in mathematical chance territory, facing St Kilda at Ikon Park in a must-win affair.
ESSENDON 2.5 4.6 7.7 8.8 (56)
CARLTON 0.0 0.0 1.3 3.6 (24)
Essendon: Alexander 3, Toogood 2, Vogt, Jacques, Dyke
Carlton: Cordner 2, Fitzpatrick
Essendon: Prespakis, Toogood, Nanscawen, Alexander, Radford, G.Clarke
Carlton: McKay, Moody, Sherar, Pound
Crowd: 3,812 at Windy Hill