Essendon's Tom Bellchambers marks against West Coast on Thursday night. Picture: AAP
Essendon's Tom Bellchambers marks against West Coast on Thursday night. Picture: AAP

Bombers are back in finals hunt

PARK those September holiday plans, Essendon fans.

The Tullamarine Globetrotters finally arrived at Perth Stadium on Thursday night - and their bag of tricks was frightening.

Given little chance of upsetting a West Coast team that had lost only four of its past 19 games in Perth, the Bombers pulled out a complete performance to keep themselves in ­finals calculations with a 28-point victory.

Essendon's first 40 minutes was sizzling as it took the home crowd out of the equation and then put the result beyond, working its way to a 50-1 lead by the eight-minute mark of the second quarter.

Defensively, the Bombers brought intense pressure and their structure stifled any flow and run in the Eagles' game.

Offensively, the visitors won the hard ball, had the better of the clearances, moved the ball fast and direct through the corridor and had midfielders hitting the scoreboard.

After an opening half Fox Footy commentator Garry Lyon labelled "pathetic", the Eagles were always going to respond.

But without forward twin towers Josh Kennedy (knee) and Jack Darling (ankle) to kick to, the home side simply could not find the big sticks despite a tsunami of inside-50 entries across the second and third quarters.

Devon Smith and Jake Stringer lead the celebrations against the Eagles. Picture: Getty Images
Devon Smith and Jake Stringer lead the celebrations against the Eagles. Picture: Getty Images

Kennedy and Darling had contributed 33 per cent of West Coast's goals this season - 57 of 171 majors - but their worth is clearly more than just that, considering the complete loss of structure the Eagles suffered.

This was Essendon's night, though.

And this was the Essendon that many expected to see at the start of season, on show in the full spotlight of Thursday night football.

The three off-season recruits considered the missing pieces of the puzzle - Devon Smith, Jake Stringer and Adam Saad - were all influential and the side's attacking flair off half-back was something to behold.

Stringer had three goals in the opening quarter to provide the early spark, Smith kicked three goals from the midfield to go with 23 disposals and Saad had 26 touches and seven bounces.

Adam Saad breaks clear of Luke Shuey. Picture: AAP
Adam Saad breaks clear of Luke Shuey. Picture: AAP

Tom Bellchambers beat Nic Naitanui in the ruck, Zach Merrett (30 disposals) was sharp through the midfield and the experience of Cale Hooker, Michael Hurley and Brendon Goddard shone down back.

Free agent Andrew Gaff led all-comers with 32 disposals for West Coast.

The equation for Essendon is seven wins from its last nine games to play finals.

With seven of those games in Melbourne and clashes with North Melbourne, Gold Coast, Fremantle and St Kilda to come, it is a mountain that, on last night's form, the Bombers seem capable of climbing.

"It's probably going to be a real stock-standard line here, but we really are just taking it one week at a time, and it's a fitting result," said Essendon captain Dyson Heppell, who had 27 disposals.

"We've been putting it on our senior leaders throughout the last couple of months and I think it's great to get some reward for effort."

WEST COAST 0.1 1.6 2.12 6.16 (52)

ESSENDON 6.2 8.4 9.7 12.8 (80)

GOALS

Eagles: Cripps 2, Naitanui, Rioli, LeCras, Shuey

Bombers: Stringer 3, Smith 3, Bellchambers, Brown, McDonald-Tipungwuti, Baguley, Guelfi, Langford

BEST

Eagles: Gaff, Yeo, Redden, Hurn, Cripps

Bombers: Bellchambers, Smith, Merrett, Goddard, Saad, Heppell, Hurley

INJURIES

Eagles: Nil

Bombers: Nil

Reports: Nil

Umpires: Margetts, Dalgleish, Williamson, Fleer

Official crowd: 51,409 at Optus Stadium

 

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