A RESURGENT Greater Western Sydney has blown the race for eighth wide open by producing a huge second half to overrun Essendon by 13 points at Metricon Stadium on Sunday night.
Things didn’t look good for the Giants when they trailed by 16 points at half-time, but a four-goal-to-zero third term helped them gain the lead and set them on the way to record the 9.12 (66) to 7.11 (53) victory.
BOMBERS v GIANTS Full match coverage and stats
It was the experienced heads of Lachie Whitfield, Callan Ward and Shane Mumford that lifted when required in that penultimate quarter, as the Giants won for the first time in three matches to catapult in front of Essendon and up into the top eight.
The Giants narrowly hang on to eighth place but have four teams - including Essendon - two points behind them and snapping at their heels with just four games remaining this season.
It was a 30-27 edge at the clearances that paved the way for GWS’ second-half turnaround, with Mumford instrumental at setting the tone that fellow veterans Ward and Whitfield picked up on quickly and the Bombers' highly-rated counterparts were unable to match.
'NOT GOING TO GET FAR' Rutten disappointed by Bombers' form fade
Whitfield finished with a game-high 36 disposals, while Tom Green (29) and Harry Perryman (25) also won plenty of the ball for a Giants' midfield that bats extremely deep.
But perhaps it was the tagging efforts of Lachie Ash that stood out most, with the youngster putting the clamps on Bombers star Darcy Parish and keeping the in-form onballer to just 15 touches.
Fellow midfield star Zach Merrett was unbale to pick up the slack after a fast start to the match and could only collect 20 disposals, with skipper Dyson Heppell (28 touches) and Jordan Ridley (25) the biggest ball winners for the Dons.
Merrett had the ball on a string during the opening term and Archie Perkins and Cale Hooker made the most of the midfield supply to ensure the Bombers led by 11 points at the first break.
Sharp-shooter Daniel Lloyd converted as expected to reduce the Giants' buffer early in the second term, but Devon Smith snapped a beauty from the boundary late in the quarter to ensure the Dons held sway by 16 points at half-time.
The Giants looked a different side after half-time as Whitfield got on top and they claimed an eight-point buffer at three-quarter time, following Jesse Hogan's set-shot after the siren.
Nik Cox marked strongly for what was the Dons’ only goal of the second half early in the final term, but Brent Daniels iced the game late as the Giants held on for the much-needed victory.
Still life in the old Mummy
The Giants have used Shane Mumford sparingly in recent times, but the 35-year-old showed he still has a big role to play this season with a strong performance in the ruck matched up against young up-and-comer Sam Draper. Draper was on top of Mumford in the opening half, but the wily veteran lifted when needed and even kicked the goal that gave the Giants the lead midway through the third term.
Dons strike gold in mid-season draft
The Bombers did well when they landed versatile utility Will Snelling in the mid-season draft in 2019 and it looks like they have another beauty in Sam Durham. The 20-year-old looked good when he gathered 11 disposals on debut against North Melbourne last week and he backed up that performance with another eye-catching effort against the Giants. Durham finished with 15 touches and seven marks and it's fair to say the Bombers have found a good player.
No Greene, no worries for GWS
The Giants' forward line certainly looks much different without skipper Toby Greene marshalling the troops, yet it functioned well in his absence against the Bombers. Harry Himmelberg and Jesse Hogan marked well and could have scored more heavily if not for some poor kicking for goal, while the reliable Tim Taranto and Daniel Lloyd also looked dangerous at times. When Greene returns next week the Giants will have even more firepower at their disposal.
ESSENDON 4.3 6.4 6.8 7.11 (53)
GREATER WESTERN SYDNEY 2.4 3.6 7.10 9.12 (66)
Essendon: Hooker, Parish, Perkins, Smith, Stringer, Zaharakis, Cox
Greater Western Sydney: Hogan 2, Himmelberg, Ash, Lloyd, Ward, Mumford, Reid, Daniels
Essendon: Ridley, Heppell, Durham, Cox, Perkins, Merrett
Greater Western Sydney: Whitfield, Green, Perryman, Ash, Mumford, Ward
Greater Western Sydney: Nil
Essendon: Guelfi (unused)
Greater Western Sydney: Riccardi (unused)
Crowd: TBC at Metricon Stadium