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Match report: Lions roar away from wooden spoon

Highlights: Essendon v Brisbane Lions The Bombers and Lions clash in round 18
MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - JULY 24: Stefan Martin of the Lions and Matthew Leuenberger of the Bombers compete in a ruck contest during the 2016 AFL Round 18 match between the Essendon Bombers and the Brisbane Lions at Etihad Stadium on July 24, 2016 in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Adam Trafford/AFL Media)
Stefan Martin and Matthew Leuenberger do battle in the ruck

THE WOODEN spoon appears headed to Essendon for the first time in 83 years after the Brisbane Lions released the pressure valve on their embattled coach Justin Leppitsch with a thumping 37-point victory on Sunday.

In a clash between last and second last on the ladder, the 17th-placed Lions were cleaner by foot and more efficient in front of goal as they ended a club record 12-game losing streak, 20.8 (128) to 12.19 (91).

Led by under-fire skipper Tom Rockliff (38 disposals, one goal), the Lions' senior players ran rampant.

Daniel Rich (27, one goal) broke out of his form slump, while Pearce Hanley (31, one goal) and ruckman Stefan Martin (25, one goal) also feasted on the ball in a free-flowing encounter under the closed Etihad Stadium roof.

Talking points: Francis lives up to the hype

The Lions, who have hemorrhaged scores this season, peppered the scoreboard with 13 individual goalkickers cashing in on the lacklustre Bombers – and returning forward Josh Walker bagging four majors.

It was only second win for Leppitsch's side after their QClash triumph over Gold Coast in round four, but it lifted them a game and five per cent clear of the decimated Dons, and the coach admitted tasting victory was a relief.

"Good relief for our young boys, just to get that winning feeling," Leppitsch said post-match.

"We did some things obviously that weren’t perfect today, as both teams did. But the result’s the important part."

Essendon now seems almost certain to collect the spoon for the first time since 1933, which would end the longest streak for any club, after notching its 15th-straight defeat, a club record.

Going into a clash as favourites – unthinkable once 12 of their best players were suspended before the season for doping offences – the Bombers looked surprisingly flat and butchered the ball in a disappointing performance.

While they could still trouble Gold Coast and Carlton on the run home, John Worsfold's side now seem destined for the unwanted spoon, although fans will console themselves with the No.1 draft pick in November.

The Dons are building an impressive group of young guns and unveiled another on Sunday with last year's sixth pick, Aaron Francis, showcasing his aerial ability and rebound from half-back.

Francis wasted no time getting into the action, marking on the wing, although he turned the ball over and the Lions capitalised with Tom Cutler slotting the game's opening goal within 90 seconds.

However, the 18-year-old Bomber didn’t go into his shell and, swung forward late, was a bright spot on a disappointing day for red and black-clad supporters, finishing with 16 touches and seven marks.

Despite the Lions' frightful season, they showed no fear of what would have awaited had they lost on Sunday and came out with energy and vigour.

The visitors piled on three majors before Essendon had even taken the ball inside 50 and led by 17 points at the first change.

The Bombers showed some pluck in the second term, but booted 3.5 to 3.1, with spearhead Joe Daniher again playing the roles of hero and villain.

Daniher, who needed attention for a knock to his teeth early, snapped a brilliant major on his non-preferred right boot to reduce the margin to 10 points.

But minutes later he savagely tugged a straightforward set shot, symbolic of the Bombers' wastefulness, and the Lions kicked away.

The visitors piled on six goals to one in the third term to open up a 40-point break and put the foot down in the final term as they romped to their highest score for the season.

The visitors piled on six goals to one in the third term to open up a 40-point break and put the foot down in the final term as they romped to their highest-score for the season.

The Lions had winners everywhere, with Ryan Bastinac (30 touches) racking up disposals, Tom Cutler (two goals), Liam Dawson (two) and Eric Hipwood (one) showing some positive signs.

Zach Merrett (34 disposals) never stopped running for the Bombers, with acting skipper Brendon Goddard (31) also tireless and Daniher making the most of shoddy delivery to snare a season-best four goals.

NAB AFL Rising Star nominee Orazio Fantasia, a find up forward, booted the game's last three goals to add some respectability to the Bombers 12th-straight loss at their Etihad Stadium home.

"It was very disappointing for a number of reasons, and really just around conceding our opportunities through inaccuracy, shots for goal obviously, but field kicking that isn't good enough," Worsfold said.

"There's a pattern there over the last six weeks … we're not finishing the job off as we should."

Essendon: Joe Daniher copped a knock to the mouth and needed attention in the first quarter, but returned and kicked four goals. Coach John Worsfold couldn't shed any light on reports a dentist attended the spearhead at half-time.
Brisbane Lions: Tom Rockliff needed attention for a poke in the left eye which was bleeding early in the second term but returned to be one of his side's dominant players.

The Lions return to the Gabba to face a Port Adelaide outfit desperately trying to break into the top eight, which also won't have forgotten a disastrous 37-point loss in Brisbane last year. The Dons face a daunting trip to Adelaide against the rebounding Crows. 

ESSENDON     3.4       6.9       7.14    12.19 (91)
BRISBANE LIONS     6.3       9.4       15.6    20.8 (128)

Daniher 4, Fantasia 3, Langford, Hams, Dempsey, Brown, McDonald-Tipungwuti
Brisbane Lions: Walker 4, Mathieson 2, Cutler 2, Green 2, Dawson 2, Bewick, Martin, Hipwood, Bastinac, Mayes, Hanley, Rockliff, Rich

Essendon: Merrett, Goddard, Parish, Daniher, McDonald-Tipungwuti, Fantasia
Brisbane Lions: Rockliff, Rich, Martin, Hanley, Walker, Robinson, Zorko, Bastinac

Daniher (teeth)
Brisbane Lions: Nil

Reports: Nil

Umpires: Donlon, Fisher, O'Gorman

Official crowd: 34,869 at Etihad Stadium