ESSENDON’S late-season flurry shows no signs of slowing after the Bombers thrashed a limp Gold Coast outfit by 48 points at Marvel Stadium on Sunday.
The 14.19 (103) to 8.7 (55) defeat is a hammer blow for the Suns’ finals hopes and comes less than a week after arguably the greatest victory in the club’s history (they overturned a game-high 40-point deficit and 28-point margin at three-quarter-time to beat Richmond).
Had Gold Coast beaten Essendon, they would be equal on points with the eighth-placed Tigers (as well as the Bulldogs and Saints), instead, they find themselves in 12th, ahead of a clash against cross-state rivals Brisbane at the Gabba on Saturday night.
BOMBERS v SUNS Full match coverage and stats
The Bombers, meanwhile, have won four of their past five games, with two of those victories against top-eight teams (Sydney in Round 16, Brisbane in Round 17).
Essendon improved its impressive record against Gold Coast. From 13 matches, the Dons have won 10, lost two and had one draw, with the Suns’ most recent win against the Bombers back in round one, 2016 (at Metricon Stadium).
The first half of the opening quarter was played at breakneck speed. Essendon burst out of the blocks and had four goals on the board (via Nic Martin, Sam Durham and two to Peter Wright) inside 10 minutes.
Gold Coast’s first major came in the 14th minute when Mabior Chol ran into an open goal after crumbing like a rover, and they had a second a minute later when Levi Casboult kicked truly. Chol then added his second, before Casboult doubled his tally, and within the twinkling of an eye, the Bombers’ lead was a solitary point.
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Essendon dominated the second term, kicking five goals to one, to take a 30-point lead into the locker room. Such was the Bombers’ superiority - they had 11 scoring shots for the quarter, compared to the Suns’ four - that margin should have been greater, with the home side missing some relatively easy shots at goal. The Dons were in possession 61 for per cent of the term, while the Suns’ time in possession was just 24 per cent.
Essendon’s half-back line was wreaking havoc, with the returning Mason Redman tallying 17 touches and 441 metres gained in the first half, while Nick Hind had 12 disposals and 309 metres gained.
With their season on the line, the Suns could only manage two points in the third quarter, while the Bombers piled on more pain, kicking two goals to extend the gap to 46 points at the final change.
Gold Coast kicked the first two goals of the last quarter, via Jack Lukosius and Day, cutting the margin to 36 points, but Sam Draper, who was one of the Bombers’ best players, put any hopes of another Suns comeback to bed when he displayed some individual brilliance, winning the centre bounce before finishing with a checkside goal on the run.
Essendon finished with 115 more disposals and had 60 inside 50s to Gold Coast’s 45. The Bombers had 101 more uncontested possessions and 22 more contested.
Draper with one of the goals of the year
With 10 minutes left in the game and the Suns having kicked two goals in a row, the Bombers needed a settler. Step up, Sam Draper. The Bombers’ ruckman took the ball from the centre bounce, brushed a would-be tackle from David Swallow, handballed it to Matt Guelfi, got it back, danced around Charlie Ballard and kicked a goal off the outside of his boot. It sent the Essendon faithful into raptures as Draper basked in the glory of one of the season’s magic moments. "I was saying to (Matt) Guelfi, 'Give me the one-two, then I just freestyled the rest'," Draper said post-game.
A sour day for Suns’ milestone men
Former captain David Swallow reached a milestone on Sunday, becoming a joint record holder of games played for the Suns. Swallow equals Jarrod Harbrow on 192 matches played in red and yellow. The No.1 pick in the 2010 National Draft, Swallow made his debut as an 18-year-old in round two, 2011. He has been a tremendous servant of the club, guiding them through some terribly lean times. Swallow, now 29, boasts a record of 53 wins, one draw and 138 losses. It was also Stuart Dew’s 100th game in charge of the Suns. The recently re-signed Dew has 27 wins, one draw and 72 losses to his name.
Bombers’ ball movement too hot for Suns
A cornerstone of Essendon’s victory was the manner in which they moved the ball. The Bombers were slick and took the game on. They led handball receives 135-69 and points scored from defensive half chains 52-14. When the Dons are up and going on the fast deck of Marvel Stadium, they are an exciting team to watch.
ESSENDON 4.4 9.10 11.16 14.19 (103)
GOLD COAST 4.1 5.4 5.6 8.7 (55)
Essendon: Stringer 4, Draper 2, Jones 2, Martin 2, Wright 2, Durham, Phillips
Gold Coast: Casboult 2, Chol 2, Day 2, Lukosius, Rankine
Essendon: Draper, Redman, Merrett, Hind, McGrath, Stringer, Shiel
Gold Coast: Anderson, Miller, Lukosius, Swallow, Ellis,
Gold Coast: Nil
Essendon: Brayden Ham (Unused)
Gold Coast: Rory Atkins (Unused)
Crowd: 23,484 at Marvel Stadium