FORGET 'Two-metre Peter'. This was 'Out-of-sight Wright'.
In a dominant performance that helped steer Essendon to one of the upsets of the season, Peter Wright booted seven goals in a best-afield display as the Bombers beat the top-of-the-ladder Western Bulldogs on Sunday.
The 13-point win, which was a boilover nearly of 2000 proportions when the Dogs famously overcame the previously unbeaten Bombers in the corresponding round 21 fixture at the Docklands venue, reestablished Essendon's finals hopes and also could cost the Dogs the minor premiership with two rounds remaining.
The premiership favourites had beaten Essendon six times in a row heading into the clash by 54 points, with Luke Beveridge yet to lose to the club as a senior coach. But that was also PP (pre-Peter), with the former Sun pulling out a commanding career-best haul to spearhead his side to its 15.7 (97) to 12.12 (84) win.
The shock win lifts Essendon to ninth position on the ladder with games to come against bottom-five placed sides Gold Coast and Collingwood in the final two rounds.
Wright was the star but he was fed by a midfield unit that matched up and overcame the star-studded Bulldogs onball brigade, with Zach Merrett (30 disposals) and Darcy Parish (28) immense under ruckman Sam Draper, who was terrific.
Defender Jordan Ridley also had another outstanding game to be a calm head throughout as the Bombers brought down their bogey side.
It was a Bulldogs blast at the start, just without the scoreboard dominance. The Dogs entered the first change 13 points up after a couple of early goals for Bruce, but it didn't reflect their control of proceedings.
When Aaron Naughton slotted one early in the second term the Dogs looked set to get really motoring as they jumped to a 19-point lead, but the Bombers bit back in style. They booted six of the next seven goals, including three to Wright, to jump to a nine-point lead before a steadying major for Jason Johannisen cut the deficit to three points at the main change.
BULLDOGS v BOMBERS Full match coverage and stats
Essendon had limited the early influence of Marcus Bontempelli as its own midfield unit took momentum, with Draper causing havoc in the ruck (and pushing forward to kick a goal) with Parish and Shiel also busy in the Bombers' surge.
It became an armwrestle there on. With plenty at stake for both teams, Tom Liberatore broke the 10-minute dreadlock midway through the third quarter, but the Bombers weathered the storm to boot four of the next five goals, including a brilliant snap from Parish, to help them to an 11-point lead at the final change.
The Dogs came again in the final term but it was Wright who stood tallest, kicking three last-quarter goals to stamp his claims on the victory.
Dons' forward mix the Wright stuff
Once again the Bombers opted to leave veteran Cale Hooker out of their side, instead using Aaron Francis as Wright's forward partner. Francis, in his second AFL game back from a mental health break, kicked two goals in the first half and competed well inside 50 to finish with eight disposals from seven marks across the day. Wright was also outstanding in his career-best game, with his haul of goals taking his tally to 25 in his debut season with the club.
The Bulldogs brought Adam Treloar straight back in at senior level after 10 weeks out with an ankle injury with the need for the gun recruit to pick up some important match fitness before the finals. Treloar had six disposals in the first quarter and booted a goal in the second term, and finished with 22 disposals for the game. Most importantly, the former Magpie and Giant got through unscathed after at one stage in his recovery having concerns he would get back to the field this season.
Ruck battle one for the future
It was an entertaining battle in the ruck between Sam Draper and Tim English in a match-up which will be one to watch for the next decade. Draper had the better of the hitouts, amassing 39 and four clearances, to English's 24. Both kicked a goal across the afternoon with English having more disposals around the ground (13 to Draper's 11), but it was Draper whose aggression and tenacity at the stoppages helped give his side the edge.
WESTERN BULLDOGS 3.3 6.5 8.11 12.12 (84)
ESSENDON 1.2 7.2 11.4 15.7 (97)
Western Bulldogs: Bruce 3, Bontempelli, Duryea, English, Johannisen, Liberatore, Naughton, Treloar, Ugle-Hagan, Wood
Essendon: Wright 7, Francis 2, Draper, Guelfi, McDonald-Tipungwuti, Parish, Smith, Waterman
Western Bulldogs: Macrae, Bontempelli, Williams, Dale, Bruce, Liberatore
Essendon: Wright, Parish, Merrett, Draper, Ridley, Shiel
Western Bulldogs: Schache (ankle), Bruce (knee)
Western Bulldogs: R.Smith (unused)
Essendon: Perkins (unused)