Nic Martin celebrates a goal during the Essendon's round five match against Melbourne at Adelaide Oval on April 15, 2023. Picture: AFL Photos

MAKE that four from five and the first big scalp of Brad Scott's tenure at Essendon. 

The Bombers won only once in the first seven rounds of 2022 and finished with just seven wins before the entire football club was turned on its head amid a tumultuous off-season in Tullamarine. But after appointing a new coach – plus two new CEOs and a new president – Essendon is one of the early surprise packets of 2023 after comfortably dismissing premiership favourites Melbourne by 27 points at the Adelaide Oval on Saturday. 

BOMBERS v DEMONS Full match coverage and stats

The Demons had won eight of their past nine at the venue and boasted an impressive 10-5 overall record inside South Australia's sporting cathedral, but had no answers for the Bombers' intensity and class during a 45-minute blitz during the second and third quarters where Essendon kicked seven unanswered goals to set up the 15.14 (104) to 11.11 (77) win.


Essendon beat Hawthorn and Gold Coast in the first fortnight and then Greater Western Sydney on Easter Sunday – three sides that didn't feature in September last year – but this was the scalp it needed. 

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With Melbourne skipper Max Gawn in town but still missing after suffering an MCL injury in round two, Bombers ruckmen Sam Draper and Andrew Phillips pushed forward to trouble a Demons defence missing All-Australian defenders Jake Lever (ankle) and Michael Hibberd (Achilles), combining for five first-half goals. 


Draper was the architect in the first half, booting three goals in the opening two terms before heavens erupted at the main break, finishing with 18 hitouts, 14 disposals and three contested marks in another box-office performance. 

Essendon's star midfield trio of Darcy Parish (33 disposals, 17 contested possessions and eight inside 50s) Zach Merrett (35 disposals, nine inside 50s and seven tackles) and Dylan Shiel (28 disposals, 16 contested possessions and seven clearances) were all busy, but it was less about a standout individual performance and more about the standout team performance.

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The Bombers led at every break and never let Simon Goodwin's side within three goals when the rain transitioned from a drizzle to a deluge after half-time. 


It started with Will Snelling, who slotted a set shot four minutes into the game after missing the first month of the season. Essendon looked ominous from there.

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Melbourne kicked the first three goals of the second quarter to reclaim the lead and looked to finally be clicking after Clayton Oliver touched the ball only twice in the first quarter and Christian Petracca had just five disposals, but it didn't last long. 


Essendon responded with four straight goals – three in five minutes – including a clever snap from Draper for the South Australian's third. 


The Bombers were rarely challenged from there, reaching a 42-point margin halfway through the last quarter before the Demons recorded the final five scores to make the margin look better than what it was.  

The Hangar was renovated over the off-season. Two CEOs left - one lasted less than 24 hours - and one president departed. But the coach has made an instant impact.

Essendon hasn't won a final since 2004 – it's lost six elimination finals since then – but the Bombers might start dreaming about September if they continue to play this way.

Ducking free kick leads to concussion
Charlie Spargo exited the game just before half-time after ducking into a tackle to be caught holding the ball by Mason Redman. The Demon underwent a concussion test at half-time and has now entered protocols, ruling the Victorian out of the Anzac Day eve game against Richmond. James Jordon replaced Spargo for the second half at Adelaide Oval.

Charlie Spargo is assisted from the field during Melbourne's round five match against Essendon at Adelaide Oval, on April 15, 2023. Picture: Getty Images

Oliver recovers from slow start
Clayton Oliver started very slowly and roared home like a Ferrari. The four-time best-and-fairest winner collected only two disposals in the first quarter, with Brad Scott sending Will Setterfield to nullify him at stoppage. But after the Dons broke the game open in the third quarter, Oliver tried to drag Melbourne back across the line. The Brownlow Medal contender amassed 20 disposals and 14 contested possessions alone, finishing with 41 touches, 25 contested possessions, eight clearances and seven inside 50s. 

Clayton Oliver in action in Melbourne's round five match against Essendon at Adelaide Oval on April 15, 2023. Picture: AFL Photos

Dees swing late change
Melbourne was supposed to test the tall trio of Ben Brown, Tom McDonald and Jacob van Rooyen in the same forward line for the first time, but those plans changed. Brown missed last week and was a late out against the Bombers with back soreness, after being named on Thursday night. He trained alongside Max Gawn in a park near the Adelaide Oval early on Saturday morning, under the watch of Greg Stafford and Troy Chaplin. In the absence of Brown, McDonald was held scoreless while van Rooyen kicked one goal in his third game.


ESSENDON           5.4     9.10     12.13     15.14 (104)
MELBOURNE        4.2      7.5        7.7        11.11 (77)

Essendon: Draper 3, Phillips 2, Martin 2, Langford 2, Hind 2, Stringer, Snelling, Perkins, Jones
Pickett 2, Melksham 2,  Fritsch 2, van Rooyen, Petracca, Neal-Bullen, Jordon, Chandler

Essendon: Parish, Merrett, Draper, McGrath, Shiel, Durham, Langford
Melbourne: Oliver, Petracca, Langdon, Viney, May

Essendon: Jones (ankle)
Melbourne: Spargo (concussion)

Essendon: Nick Hind (replaced Harry Jones in the third quarter)
Melbourne: James Jordon (replaced Charlie Spargo at half-time)

Crowd: 33,832 at Adelaide Oval