PATRICK Ambrose announced himself as a potential key forward saviour as the new Baby Bombers produced one of Essendon’s bravest victories for years, with a 15-point defeat of Frankston at Windy Hill on Sunday.
Ambrose was unstoppable as a deep forward, hauling in 10 marks and kicking six goals as Essendon outworked the Dolphins when it mattered most.
Having lost Tom Cutler, Danny Younan, Josh Tynan and Kyle Dunkley among eight changes from their previous game, the Bombers had an amazing 17 of their 22 go in with no more than three VFL games to their credit, including four debutants, and they hung with and then outplayed their opponents.
The Dolphins were missing captain Josh Newman and in-form recruit Bailey Lambert, but their 3-0 start is now 3-2 with tough matches against three of the best teams in the competition – Footscray, Richmond and Casey Demons – to come in the next three weeks.
But this win was all about guts and determination from Essendon, with only Sam McLarty (44 matches), Brandon Zerk-Thatcher (40), Nick O’Kearney (32), Martin Gleeson (28) and Ambrose (21) going in with any sort of VFL experience.
Frankston had more of the ball, led once again by another brilliant performance from Nathan Freeman, who had 42 disposals in his 50th game but only six in the crucial last quarter, while Will Fordham broke the lines well to finish with 31 and a goal.
Connor Riley (30) was another to shine while Anthony Brolic (27) also did well in his own 50th game, but the Bombers were happy to hang onto the ball and wait for opportunities to pick their way forward.
The Dolphins led by three points at quarter-time and eight at the half and were still in the box seat at the final break, trailing by two points and coming home with a strong breeze.
But after Brodie McLaughlin rolled home a terrific goal from the boundary to give them the lead in the first minute of the last quarter, the Dolphins were outplayed by a team of kids that simply wanted it more.
A couple of those ‘inexperienced’ VFL players have played plenty of State league footy, and Joe Atley (29 disposals) and Alec Waterman (25) were huge in the last term.
Of the youngsters, ruckman Nick Bryan was dominant with 42 hitouts, Ned Cahill (21, one goal) showed poise through the middle, Sam Conforti (21) was composed and took a screamer on the wing, Angus Baker (27, eight marks) was classy in defence and fourth-generation Bomber Tom Hird (19) showed signs of his famous father.
O’Kearney was also very good with 26 touches, while Cody Brand was strong down back and Brady Rowles, who amazingly captained Essendon on his VFL debut, kicked two crucial goals, including the sealer.
Box Hill Hawks inflicted North Melbourne’s third consecutive 18-goal thrashing with a 108-point belting at Box Hill City Oval.
The Kangaroos may have been feeling good about themselves after the drought-breaking AFL win on Saturday, but the Hawks gradually took control as the game progressed and put an exclamation mark on the result with 10 unanswered goals in the last quarter.
Dan Howe was untouchable with 35 disposals, six marks, seven tackles and two goals, while Brayden Kilpatrick (30 touches, 10 marks, one goal) was also brilliant, and youngsters Josh Morris (5.1), Emerson Jeka (3.4) and Jack Saunders (3.0) cashed in.
Bailey Scott was terrific for the Kangaroos with 28 touches and a goal, while Tristan Xerri (18 disposals, 23 hitouts) rucked well one out against Ned Reeves and Jon Ceglar.
SUNDAY, MAY 16
Box Hill Hawks 23.12 (150) def North Melbourne 6.6 (42)
Essendon 12.11 (83) def Frankston 10.8 (68)
SATURDAY, MAY 15
Aspley 7.5 (47) lost to Southport 23.18 (156)
Port Melbourne 7.11 (53) lost to Coburg 12.17 (89)
Casey Demons 7.15 (57) def Geelong 8.8 (56)
Sandringham 13.9 (87) def Williamstown 11.12 (78)
Richmond 19.9 (123) def GWS Giants 3.8 (26)
Sydney 12.14 (86) def Collingwood 8.5 (53)
THURSDAY, MAY 13
Gold Coast 8.13 (61) lost to Brisbane Lions 19.7 (121)