FOR SO long Essendon has been a side full of style. But its win over Collingwood on Friday night was one of substance.
After last week's lacklustre defeat to Carlton, the Bombers struck back by beating Collingwood by 15 points at the MCG in a boilover.
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The Bombers didn't do it without a scare, though, having led by 28 points early in the last term. That was whittled back to three points midway through the last term after a flurry of Collingwood goals, however late majors to Jacob Townsend and Dylan Shiel sealed the 10.3 (63) to 7.6 (48) win.
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Jake Stringer was the star with three goals but he limped from the field late in the contest with what appeared to be an ankle injury.
Midfield duo Shiel (29 disposals) and Andrew McGrath (19) were also pivotal in the Bombers' third win from four starts, while stand-in skipper Michael Hurley was terrific in defence alongside runner Adam Saad.
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Adam Treloar (30 disposals) was his prolific self in his return to senior footy, Josh Daicos (19 disposals, one goal) was particularly lively in the first half across half-forward and Brayden Maynard was strong in defence.
This was the Bombers playing to senior coach-in-waiting Ben Rutten's plan.
The club has been known for its flash, dare and fast-paced game plan, but Rutten is laying the defensive foundations and it showed against the Pies, who were kept goalless for the second and third quarters after a quick start.
With a side missing star midfielders Zach Merrett and Dyson Heppell, as well as key forward Joe Daniher, it was an Essendon win where its sum was better than its parts.
The loss capped a rough week for the Pies, who lost Jeremy Howe for much of the season with a knee injury in last week's loss to the Giants and had vice-captain Steele Sidebottom suspended for four games because of a COVID-19 protocol breach.
Phillips stakes claim for permanent ruck spot
It loomed as a massive task for new Bomber Andrew Phillips in stopping Collingwood ruck counterpart Brodie Grundy. Grundy picked up four of six Brownlow Medal votes against the Bombers last year and asserted his dominance around the ground. But the former Giants and Blues ruckman held his own in his first game in the red and black. Grundy dominated the hitouts (37 to 13), but Phillips' competitiveness and marking around the ground (he finished with 11 disposals) were also influential in a performance that should see him in the starting Bombers side for some time.
Late in the third quarter, with Collingwood's scoring drought continuing, the Pies missed what looked set to be a certain goal when De Goey's shot hit the goal umpire as he was straddling the post. The decision was sent to the DrinkWise Score Review centre, which deemed it a behind in what was a crucial moment. The AFL ticked off the decision post-game, saying the score reviewer’s call was right if they were satisfied the ball was going to hit the post. But the Pies perhaps got the evener in the last quarter, when Bomber Will Snelling was pinged for a dangerous tackle on Callum Brown. Replays showed the tackle to be near textbook, but Brown duly went back and slotted his goal as the Magpies made their late run.
Howe will the Pies replace him?
The massive hole left in Collingwood's defence by the injured Howe was laid bare by the Bombers. Howe, who underwent knee surgery this week and could miss the rest of the season, is such a general in the back half for the Magpies that it was clear they were missing his direction, control and ability to help out teammates in the air. Collingwood's back half lacked surety without him, with Matt Scharenberg returning to the line-up and Travis Varcoe being deployed into defence. Townsend kept Magpies' star backman Darcy Moore occupied too, making for some shaky moments.
COLLINGWOOD 3.0 3.1 3.5 7.6 (48)
ESSENDON 3.0 5.0 8.2 10.3 (63)
Collingwood: Stephenson 3, Brown, Daicos, Mihocek, Varcoe
Essendon: Stringer 3, McDonald-Tipungwuti 2, McKernan, Parish, Shiel, Townsend, Zaharakis
Collingwood: Treloar, Maynard, Daicos, Stephenson, Pendlebury
Essendon: Shiel, Hurley, McGrath, Stringer, Ridley, Hooker
Essendon: Stringer (ankle)