THIS will feel like some form of redemption.
It has been a miserable season for Essendon, but Saturday’s nine-point win over Sydney was a rare moment to savour for the team and fans alike.
After being humiliated by 58 points at the SCG in round nine, round 16 was a different story against the same team.
This time, Essendon recovered from 26 points down in the second quarter to notch up the crucial 15.5 (95) to 12.14 (86) win – and strike a serious blow to the Swans’ top-eight hopes.
The Bombers had to do it the hard way, snatching back the lead four times in the seesawing affair to bank four premiership points in one of the more memorable wins of Ben Rutten’s time in charge.
Sydney looked ominous early, kicking five goals without a blemish to open up a three-goal lead at the first break. Tom Papley kicked the first goal of the game within 90 seconds and looked set for a big day, but had a limited effect on the rest of the game.
BOMBERS v SWANS Full match coverage and stats
Lance Franklin kicked a goal within the opening minutes of the second quarter, and it looked like the Swans were about to tear the game apart.
But the Bombers kicked five straight goals in 13 minutes to take the lead – a prospect which would have looked in incredibly unlikely 15 minutes prior.
Sam Reid finally snapped the streak, but the Bombers had shown they weren’t going to go down without a fight.
With the whiff of an upset - and a rare win amid a gloomy season – in the air, Essendon burst out of the blocks after the main break.
Zach Merrett kicked his second on the run early, before Jake Kelly kicked his first goal in red and black – and only the second of his 124-game career – to put the Bombers back in front.
RUTTON, LONGMIRE Hear from both coaches
Sydney couldn’t buy a goal early in the third term, kicking eight behinds in a row before Heeney converted a set shot with 30 seconds left on the clock to put the Swans back in front. Will Hayward added a second with just one second left until three-quarter time.
But then, just when the class of Sydney looked likely to rise to the top again, Merrett reduced the margin to just four points when he snapped through his third to kick the opening goal of the final term, firing up a frustrated Essendon faithful who haven’t had much to enjoy this year.
Jake Stringer added two classy goals at the death and the game was done.
Essendon may have smashed St Kilda a fortnight ago on the Friday night stage, but this was the most satisfying of the season.
Sydney had so much more on the line. They would have remained level with the top-four if they won, but now they are not guaranteed a top-eight spot by the end of the weekend.
John Longmire’s men will return to the harbour city searching for answers after making a fast start and dominating large chunks of the game before fizzling out in disappointing fashion.
Who saw this coming?
Major milestone for bargain draft pick
Kinnear Beatson has unearthed plenty of hidden gems for the Swans across the past couple of decades. Not many have been as good as Luke Parker, who Sydney plucked with pick No.40 in the 2010 NAB AFL Draft. After winning three Bob Skilton Medals, a premiership and an All-Australian blazer, Parker celebrated his 250th in style at the MCG on Saturday in front of family and friends in his home city. The Langwarrin product didn’t get the result he deserved, despite his best efforts at the MCG.
Massive game from Massimo
After starting his AFL career at Marvel Stadium and moving across to Optus Stadium last weekend, Massimo D’Ambrosio made an eye-catching start to life on the MCG. Since being selected with pick No.3 in last month’s Mid-Season Rookie Draft, D’Ambrosio has quickly shone he has the class to be in this game for a long time. The Western Jets product collected 15 touches on debut, 14 last week, and hadn’t beaten that mark by early in the third quarter, finishing with 23 disposals to loom as the next great pick from the mid-season draft.
Nearly day for must-watch Swan
Tom Papley had an almost day. The All-Australian small forward could have finished with a bag, but ended up with just one next to his name, along with three behinds and a shot that didn’t register a score. It has been a frustrating season for the 25-year-old who didn’t play his first game until round seven due to a hamstring injury that lingered.
ESSENDON 2.2 7.2 9.3 15.5 (95)
SYDNEY 5.2 7.6 9.14 12.14 (86)
Essendon: Merrett 3, Stringer 2, Wright 2, Durham, Heppell, Jones, Hobbs, Kelly, Hind, Redman, Langford
Sydney: Warner 3, Franklin 2, Reid 2, Heeney 2, Hayward, Papley, Mills
Essendon: Merrett, Hind, Heppell, D’Ambrosio, Redman, Kelly, Wright, Stringer
Sydney: Warner, Parker, Papley, Franklin, Gulden
Essendon: Andrew Phillips (unused)
Sydney: Ryan Clarke (unused)