ESSENDON 3.4 10.4 14.6 16.9 (105) CARLTON 2.4 5.7 7.12 11.18 (84)Goals: Essendon: B Howlett 3 D Zaharakis 3 J Daniher 3 P Chapman 2 B Goddard D Heppell J Carlisle J Watson T Colyer.Carlton: A Everitt 2 L Henderson 2 A Walker B Gibbs C Judd D Armfield D Ellard L Jones T Bell.Best: Essendon: J Watson, C Hooker, M Hurley, D Heppell, B Howlett, D Zaharakis, B Stanton. Carlton: M Murphy, P Cripps, K Simpson, A Walker, C Wood.Umpires: Justin Schmitt, Scott Jeffery, Heath Ryan. Official Crowd: 54,854 at MCG.
Carlton-Essendon clashes over the years have had a habit of serving up the unexpected. But perhaps the only surprise about the Bombers’ 21-point win at the MCG on Saturday was that there was no real surprise.
As the form of either team so far this season dictated, Essendon emerged on top. The Blues, as they had in their first two games, began well. The Dons, like in the first two rounds, faded badly.
Yet Carlton, while they made a decent fist of coming back at the end and punishing that fade-out, couldn’t quite find enough of a killer blow to turn the result on its head.
Four goals in a row in the final term certainly gave Essendon some anxious moments. But as they had throughout the course of the game, the Blues couldn’t get the execution right. A couple of behinds were the “what ifs”, the last goal of the surge coming too late.
Which left the result, really, neither here nor there. Essendon would pleased enough to get the points, but with an eye to the big Anzac Day clash with Collingwood, not rapt about the loss of Adam Cooney nor three last quarters now that have yielded an aggregate of just 5.5
Carlton had to have been pleased at least with a resilience they hadn’t shown towards the finish of their first two losses. But, at the same time, annoyed even at that minor victory, the ultimate recognition that this is a club with far more modest goals these days.
As they had in the opening two rounds, Carlton started full of beans if not a zest reflected in scoreboard returns.
The Blues won six of the first seven contested balls. Liam Jones had had a shot at goal within 20 seconds of the start and Sam Docherty hit the post less than two minutes in. When Levi Casboult smashed into a pack and Lachie Henderson gratefully pounced on the spills and snapped on his right foot, it was no less than Carlton deserved for its effort.
A nasty-looking spat between Chris Yarran and Bomber Paul Chapman, which forced the latter from the ground under the blood rule and later in the term saw him subbed out under the concussion rule, was further evidence the Blues meant business.
But when Essendon finally swung into action, everything just looked that much easier. David Zaharakis made space to get on the end of a chip pass. Little man Travis Colyer went long and found Ben Howlett only 20 metres out.
Carlton weren’t going anywhere just yet, the fire still burning in acts such as Jones’ tackle on Jobe Watson, rewarded with a free kick for holding the ball.
And the Blues had to be lifted further by the opening to the second quarter when, with just over a minute played, Chris Judd managed to slip the clutches of his marker Jake Melksham briefly enough to slot one through from near the boundary line, the scores now level.
Carlton managed to thrive on their opponent’s sloppiness, too. Bryce Gibbs popped one through after Essendon’s defenders got a bit too cute, a pattern that was repeated when Dennis Armfield cashed in on Judd’s intercept of a lazy Martin Gleeson handball.
That made the difference only four points the Bombers’ way. But Andrew Walker’s hitting of the post would be as close as Carlton would get.
The two immovable objects for Essendon were key defenders Cale Hooker and Michael Hurley, both resolute defensively yet still capable of rebounding and creating attack. They’d deny Carlton key forwards Henderson and Casboult much of a sniff at all, yet both still wound up with 20-plus disposals and a dozen-odd marks.
The Blues were holding up well in the in-close stuff, winning the clearances, winning the contested ball. But they were getting smashed on the outside, where Essendon runners continued to peel off into acres of space.
By half-time, the Bombers were winning the uncontested possession by a whopping 62, having racked up 142 of them to Carlton’s 80. And the beneficiaries were many.
Even Watson revelled in the unusual freedom, 15 of his 20 possessions to the long-break uncontested. Brent Stanton was in his element, as were Zach Merrett and Zaharakis. And the goals duly followed.
Chapman kicked his second after returning to the field with a head swathed in bandages. Joe Daniher finished off a clean, clinical procession of passes with another.
Brendon Goddard had made some unusual decisions early, but made no mistake when presented with his chance to get on the scoreboard. And Dyson Heppell got on the end of a lovely tap from ruckman Tom Bellchambers. Suddenly it was 27 points, and there was a sense of foreboding about what was still to come Carlton’s way.
The dam walls didn’t immediately collapse, though they perhaps should have. Jake Carlisle put the gap over five goals. It should have been seven only minutes later, the same man missing a gettable opportunity after Bellchambers had managed to somehow miss one from 10 metres out.
Soon enough Tom Bell got one back for the Blues, Bryce Gibbs missed narrowly, and you wondered whether perhaps the Bombers might pay for their largesse. There have been similar turning points in enough of these Dons-Blues clashes past to make it seem feasible enough.
But Zaharakis and Daniher restored the ledger quickly enough, and a dubious free kick to Colyer in the goalsquare right on the three-quarter time siren blew the gap out to six goals.
It became a game-high 41 points after Watson bounced one through with the entire Essendon forward 50 unattended. And so the Bombers became a bit too pleased with themselves and the Blues defiant enough not to become cannon fodder.
Jones, Walker and Andrejs Everitt brought the margin back to 22 points. The murmur that sent through the Carlton home crowd would have been a lot throatier had either Patrick Cripps, impressive as he was, or Everitt again, been able to land two gettable shots that could have made it three goals required with five minutes left on the clock.
By the time David Ellard booted the next, there wasn’t enough time left for a miracle. And Howlett, busy all day for the Bombers, duly finished things off with the final goal of the game.
Which perhaps was appropriate. Carlton had attacked relentlessly but been unable to make it count. Essendon’s attacks were infrequent by the finish, but something better always came of them. Which, given where these clubs are right now, is about what you’d expect.
Jobe Watson (Ess) ……. 8
Cale Hooker (Ess)………7
Michael Hurley (Ess)…..7
Dyson Heppell (Ess)……6
Marc Murphy (Carl)…….6
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