Jake Stringer celebrates a goal during round five, 2024. Picture: AFL Photos/Getty Images

ESSENDON has rebounded from last week's horror showing in emphatic style, defeating the Western Bulldogs by 29 points in front of a 50,000-strong crowd at Marvel Stadium.

The Bulldogs may well look back on this match as a seriously missed opportunity, struggling to raise a yelp after half-time in the 15.6 (96) to 9.13 (67) loss against a fellow 2-2 side, the Bombers piling on 5.1 in the last quarter.

It's just the second time Essendon has come away with the four points against the Western Bulldogs in their past 11 meetings, and the Bombers stretched out to a 43-point lead before a few late Dogs goals.


Initially, it appeared as if the Dogs had the Dons for height, particularly in their forward line, with last week's Rising Star nominee – 208cm Sam Darcy – pushing high up the ground to be a key linking player.

Early days, Essendon had struggled early to produce clean entries inside 50, but once the Bombers straightened up – forcing stoppages in attack and drawing free kicks – the goals flowed, easing out to a four-point lead at the first break.

BULLDOGS v BOMBERS Full match coverage and stats

You can't shut down a high-quality midfield for long, and the Dogs recorded the first six clearances of the second term, but failed to put the Bombers away properly, kicking 2.3.

Amid the skill errors and the oddly endemic slipping-over from both sides and umpires, Xavier Duursma and Jake Stringer produced two touches of class in quick succession, the former kicking truly from a distance (he enjoyed it so much he pulled out the bow and arrow) while the latter snapped sharply from the pocket.


Langford's second a few minutes later re-established Essendon's lead, putting paid to the Dogs' brief period of dominance. It was the last time Luke Beveridge's side had any serious momentum.

Jamarra Ugle-Hagan had moments of sheer brilliance in his 50th game, taking strong contested marks, a one-hander back with the flight, and his best impression of Gary Ablett senior's legendary effort, just losing control at the last moment.


He kicked 3.3 for the match, but would be ruing a missed opportunity at the start of the last quarter from a relatively minor angle.

Jye Caldwell wore the in-form Tom Liberatore, limiting him somewhat to 25 disposals, but the tough Dog also recording a game-high nine clearances.

Sam Durham made a strong return from a week off with concussion, providing a physical presence around the contest with 21 and six clearances.

Beveridge's quirky selection decisions continued, starting All-Australian Bailey Dale as the substitute, coming on halfway through the third term for Ryley Sanders and playing on the wing.

The MRO may look at a low bump from Tom Liberatore on Todd Goldstein as the two attempted to pick up the footy, with the Bomber's head accidentally being collected. A free kick was paid, with a subsequent 50m penalty for dissent.

Laitham Vandermeer also lost his cool, flipping Andy McGrath in a sling tackle in the fourth term, the Bombers once again marched 50m downfield.

Dons rebound from horror Power loss
After being comprehensively outplayed by Port Adelaide last week, losing by 69 points, Essendon had a week of scrutiny, with plenty written and spoken about the team's apparent lack of improvement. With a number of best-23 players sidelined – including Archie Perkins, Will Setterfield, Jordan Ridley, Dylan Shiel and Peter Wright – the Bombers stood up to the task, rucks Todd Goldstein and Sam Draper setting the tone from the middle of the ground.


Macrae makes his mark
It's been a tough start to the year for Jack Macrae, beginning the season in the VFL after an injury-affected pre-season, coming into the side in round four and starting as sub last week. The Dogs star had a team-high eight disposals in the first quarter, and finished with 25 for the match. With Marcus Bontempelli and Liberatore down on their usual output, Macrae worked in tandem with Adam Treloar, the only Dog to top his disposal tally.

Jack Macrae evades Darcy Parish during round five, 2024. Picture: AFL Photos

Dogs their own worst enemies
One passage of play summed up the chaotic nature of the match, particularly from a Western Bulldogs' perspective. Harry Jones booted the ball deep into Essendon's forward 50, to a one-on-four situation. Simultaneously, three Dogs defenders spoiled each other, while Adam Treloar was pinged for holding Jake Stringer. The ball ended up in Kyle Langford's hands in the square, stopping and turning to look at the umpire before lazily dribbling the advantaged free kick home. It took the margin to a then-game high 15 points.


WESTERN BULLDOGS       4.2     6.6     7.9      9.13     (67)
ESSENDON                        5.0     8.2     10.5    15.6     (96)

Western Bulldogs: Ugle-Hagan 3, West 2, Naughton 2, Vandermeer, Darcy
Essendon: Langford 3, Jones 2, Stringer 2, Duursma 2, Goldstein, Caldwell, Martin, A. Davey, Gresham, Durham 

Western Bulldogs: Treloar, Macrae, Ugle-Hagan, Richards, Liberatore
Essendon: Durham, Merrett, Duursma, Langford, Goldstein, Caldwell

Western Bulldogs: Nil
Essendon: Nil

Western Bulldogs: Bailey Dale (replaced Ryley Sanders in the third term)
Essendon: Nick Hind (replaced Jye Menzie at three-quarter time)

 Crowd: 50,144 at Marvel Stadium