Zac Williams celebrates kicking a goal during the match between Essendon and Carlton at the MCG in round 13, 2024. Picture: Getty Images

CARLTON has proven to be a step above the rising Essendon, defeating the Bombers by 26 points in a mature performance in front of a packed MCG.

BOMBERS v BLUES Full match coverage and stats

Essendon had its opportunities but seriously struggled with both its forward structure and conversion in front of goal, the Blues quelling a third-term Bombers uprising to secure the 15.6 (96) to 9.16 (70) victory.

All the attention had been (rightly) on twins Harry and Ben McKay's first meeting in nine years, but there are two other important talls in Carlton's line-up – Charlie Curnow and Tom De Koning.

Curnow couldn't be tamed in the opening half, booting truly from 55m in the first after chasing down his own footy, and then delivering another 50m bullet to Elijah Hollands for the winger's second goal.


De Koning was well-beaten in the hitout count by veteran Todd Goldstein, but his around-the-ground work helped Carlton build out a 32-point buffer at the main break, proving to be a conduit to the forward line, and he was superb all match with a game-high 11 clearances.

Essendon's midfield and backline had held the tide up until a point, but the forward line was unable to make any headway whatsoever, inaccurate kicking costing them in the few opportunities they had.


Jake Stringer was barely sighted for the first 40 minutes of the match, aside from a mis-directed dribbling kick which cannoned into the behind post.

When the enigmatic Bomber kicked into gear with a beautiful set shot late in the second, it appeared Essendon might have turned the corner, but this Carlton side is built of sterner stuff than previous iterations, immediately responding through Matt Owies.


Essendon dominated the third term, winning the 50-50 contests and controlling every facet of the game except for the scoreboard. 

The Bombers struggled badly with their entries into attack despite directing play, but Nic Martin (26 disposals) was an exception, kicking 2.2 off his own boot in the term while pushing into attack from the wing.


It ended up being a 3.6 term for the Dons, restricting the Blues to 1.1 in the process to halve the margin in the space of one quarter.


Carlton booted the first four goals of the final term to reassert its control on the game, winning quick clearances and piling pressure on Essendon.

To their credit, the Bombers rallied with three of their own, but Alex Cincotta's second of the term sealed the deal.


Will Setterfield – who has a history of knee injuries – was subbed off with a knee issue after slipping over in the fourth term.

Finally, the meeting of "Barry" McKay
There's a running gag that Ben and Harry McKay – having never before met at AFL level due to a series of misadventures – are in fact one person, Barry. The pair played against each other for most of the match, Harry occasionally providing some ruck relief for Carlton, while Ben stayed firmly in the backline. The first contest inside 50 between the pair saw defender Ben infringe on forward Harry, who kicked a goal – but chose to bump another Bomber in celebration. It appeared Harry's night finished early after a marking collision with Ben, but he re-emerged with his shoulder strapped to see out the game.


Can you tag Zach Merrett?
Alex Cincotta – Carlton's go-to when it comes to shutting down opposition stars – tried his very best, but the Essendon skipper was a class above over the full four quarter. Cincotta would start centre bounces at centre half-forward to give Sam Walsh and Paddy Cripps their best chance of winning the footy, then pushing up to pick up Merrett as play progressed. The Bomber was held to just three disposals in the first quarter, but rallied in the second, finishing with 21 for the match, his equal-lowest tally for the season.

Essendon a step off the pace
The Bombers have now dropped games to Sydney, Port Adelaide, Gold Coast and Carlton, struggling when they meet fellow top-eight sides, while defeating Greater Western Sydney and drawing with Collingwood. Their execution forward of centre was a clear issue against the Blues, and while the Bombers are much-improved this season, they'll need to tidy up a few facets of their game in order to challenge in September.

ESSENDON        1.5     3.7     6.13     9.16 (70)
CARLTON          4.3     9.3     10.4     15.6 (96)  

Essendon: Guelfi 2, Martin 2, Cox, Durham, Gresham, Jones, Stringer
E.Hollands 3, Cincotta 2, Curnow 2, Williams 2, Durdin, Fogarty, Hewett, McGovern, McKay, Owies

Essendon: Martin, Merrett, Durham, Ridley, Caldwell
Carlton: De Koning, Walsh, E. Hollands, Cripps, Weitering

Essendon: Setterfield (knee)
Carlton: Nil

Essendon: Elijah Tsatas (replaced Will Setterfield in the fourth quarter)
Corey Durdin (replaced Jack Carroll at three-quarter time)

Crowd: 88,510 at the MCG