The West Coast Eagles were embarrassed in the first quarter by the Bombers, as they were restricted to one point for the term. That was enough to set the table for the Bombers to feast on the carcass of the Eagles, running out winners by 28 points in a gutsy effort on the road.
Here’s The Mongrel’s good, bad and ugly.
The Bombers’ first quarter
The Essendon defence got the ball rolling early, demonstrating the willingness to move the ball through the middle, and it paid handsome dividends.
Adam Saad took the game on and put his foot down from half back, and others started following his lead. Conor McKenna took off and hit Stringer as Saad got the ball rolling again and the team seemed to feed off their enthusiasm.
The Bombers did not let up, and the score at quarter time read like a horror story for the Eagles. 37 points down, as Devon Smith snapped a goal with three seconds left on the clock. That was unforgivable. It was West Coast’s worst quarter in Western Australia… ever! Actually, I could be making that up. Pretty sure one of the idiot commentators said something like that during the call.
The absolute highlight was the tackling of the Dons. They applied the sort of pressure the Eagles could not replicate. No West Coast players had time when they had the ball. Every time the pressure caused a turnover, the Bombers were able to counter punch and hit a target. Essendon came to play. The Eagles came to play around.
The back six
We’ve seen the Bombers defenders under the pump this season. Hurley was belted in the press for his bruise-free style, racking up disposals across half back without actually beating a man. Goddard drew the ire of pundits with his demonstrative gestures and angry disposition, but tonight, their back six clicked.
It was helped along by some atrocious kicking from the Eagles, which we’ll get to, but the ability of the Bombers to repel attacks, and kick start the Essendon offence was vital. Saad’s run, Hooker’s intercepting, and both Hurley and Goddard’s commanding presences are the obvious ones, but I really thought Matty Dea earned his money tonight as well, and Andrew McGrath provided a pair of sure hands across half back as he drifted back when it mattered in the first half.
Hands of stone. He must have a pair of them, as he managed to fell Nic Naitanui even though he hardly touched him! Maybe he was like that Marvel show (which I didn't really enjoy too much, admittedly) Iron Fist.
Not only did he hardly touch him, he also ran rings around him and Scott Lycett for most of the game. Bellchambers was instrumental in enabling the Bombers to establish their match winning lead, and completely nullified the influence of the West Coast big men at stoppages and around the ground.
He also snuck forward and snagged a goal, matching the output from the Eagles’ combination everyone thought would provide huge headaches.
Devon Smith and Zach Merrett
Smith has made Bomber fans smile this season. Even as they’ve struggled, Smith has provided run and pressure every week. Now he’s being joined by Merrett and the two of them are providing a potent midfield force that runs both ways.
Smith leads the league in tackles, and added another five to his totals tonight, along with three goals, whilst Merrett has averaged 27 touches per game over the last four games; not quite at his 2017 level, but he’s getting there.
The Bombers have now won four of their last five, and are just sneakily moving back into a place where finals may not be completely out of contention. A lot of hard work to do to get there, but with both Smith and Merrett playing well it may not be probable, but it's possible. They'll need a couple of teams to completely fall over in the process, but stranger things have happened. Hell... Richmond won the flag last year!
Luke Darcy on commentary
I'd just like to give Luke Darcy a whack here if that's ok?
Didn't think you'd object. Just after Jeremy McGovern led up from half forward and took a mark between half forward and wing, Darcy decided to offer the idea that McGovern should be moved forward.
It was a good idea. The problem was that he was already forward, Luke, you idiot! Adam Simpson had moved him there minutes before. That's how he was able to provide a leading target.
What made it more painful was his co-commentators stating “as per your wishes, Darce, McGovern is starting forward” as the fourth quarter commenced.
Chris Masten doesn’t go
This was the first quarter in a microcosm.
There was a contest on the wing, and both Zach Merrett and Chris Masten had to go for the ball.
Merrett showed tge guts required - he went, and Masten, well... Masten pulled up. Merrett took possession of the ball and cleared it. I really hope this isn’t glossed over as players who don't go in a contest deserve a whack. Yes, he was running with the flight of the ball, but that is how you make a name for yourself. You demonstrate courage, you run back with the flight, and you make the bloody contest! Maybe he was called out? Maybe he legitimately couldn't get to it. Or maybe he just didn't want it?
Irrespective, Masten pulled out. I’m sure his missus is appreciative when that happens at home, but on the field, his team, and his supporters expect him to commit to a contest. He didn’t. He deserves to cop a whack for it.
Huge Lycett errors
Let’s have a look at the losing margin. 28 points, right? A decent win on the road for the Bombers, but there were points where Scott Lycett could’ve had an influence for the home team, and just didn’t.
The obvious one was his Percy Jones-like fresh air shot in the third quarter. Cale Hooker got a touch on the snap at goal from Andrew Gaff and Lycett found himself all alone and running onto a ball in the goal square. All he had to do was get a boot on it – just toe-poke it. Hell, step on it if you have to, just get your foot to it! Seems it was all too much for the big man, who threw his foot at it and completely missed it. The ball bounced through for a point and Tom Bellchambers had a good laugh at his counterpart’s misfortune.
The other error came at the start of the second quarter. The Eagles needed to make a stand and show a bit of heart. West Coast moved the ball from half back and went inside the centre square where Lycett stood all alone. The hands went up, the ball hit them… and bounced out. To make matters worse, Lycett lunged to make amends for his error and took his opponent too high. The momentum switched, and the Bombers went forward.
It was a dire night for Lycett, but he had a lot of mates, chief amongst them was his running mate in the ruck.
A sniper shoots Nic Naitanui
By now we’ve all seen the replay. Tom Bellchambers appears to push Nic Nat relatively softly away from the ball, and he goes down like he was shot.
Seriously, don’t pull this crap, Nic. A second earlier, you threw your elbow back at Bellchambers, and he barely retaliated. He pushed you in the chest and you hit the deck and stayed there. That, from the guy who was burying people in tackles a month ago, is embarrassing.
He should be fined for staging, and he should match it and pay the equivalent to the club for going down like a sack of spuds and tarnishing their brand. Seriously, one of the softest acts I’ve seen this season.
I haven’t seen Brad Sheppard beaten one-on-one often this season, but it happened for the first goal to Mitch Brown.
I’d like to count the amount of times Jake Stringer stretches his arms out side-wards, appealing for a free kick. I reckon he’d be leading the league if that stat was kept. Two more to the total tonight.
Will Schofield hadn’t played since Round Eight, and after the first quarter he may have wished he sat out another week. Jake Stringer had three by quarter time and was leading him a dance.
You know things aren’t going your way when the umpire gets in the way and blocks your line of sight. Lewis Jetta had the umpire get right in his way. That’s one thing, but when the ball ricochets off your leg and it ends up with your opponent, Orazio Fantasia, grabbing the ball and delivering to Jake Stringer for a goal, you’d be well within your rights to give the ump a mouthful.
38 points to one at quarter time… it was like Adelaide or Carlton showed up and pulled on West Coast jumpers.
Devon Smith may have had the cleanest hands on the ground tonight. His pick up, whilst running at full pace early in the third, was special (thanks Bruce)
Liam Ryan – three marks tonight. Would like to see him at ground level a little more, but I guess that’s not what got him to the dance.
How good was it seeing Fantasia burn off Liam Duggan as he turned the arc at half forward. Haven’t seen the Bombers take the game on this season like they did tonight. Him, Tippa, McKenna and we already mentioned Saad’s brilliance. When they’re allowed to run, they’re scary.
Great effort by Matt Guelfi to hold up Naitanui as the big man was on the charge. I still reckon young Matt looks like he’s wearing eyeshadow.
Over ten minutes of dominating possession resulted in one goal for the Eagles. Credit the Bomber defence, but the Eagles kicked so many behinds in the second quarter. They shot themselves in the foot, and the Bombers shot them in the other foot.
Luke Shuey is taking a little bit too long to round into form. The Eagles needed something from him tonight. They got nothing.
Fantasia couldn’t believe his luck when no Eagles manned the mark at 60. He ran to 50 and Stringer really should’ve gloved the mark.
Young Jake Waterman wasn’t scared to give veteran Mark LeCras a mouthful after he was ignored by the Frenchman in favour of a shot at goal.
Yeo struggled to get his hands on the ball, but you’re always taught that if you can’t find the ball, do the little defensive things and the rest will work itself out. 12 tackles for Yeo.
Liked the efforts of Mason Redman tonight. A couple of big one-on-one win in the third quarter.
Credit the Bomber mids – when Naintanui managed to get first hands on it, Heppell, Merrett and co. were right there to nullify that advantage.
Another great Lycett moment as he handed to Gaff, allowing Tippa to run him down within seconds. Of course, that was only his third worst error of the night. I’m being harsh on Lycett, and it’s probably not fair… nah, it is fair. He stunk tonight, but there’s been games this season he’s been the best ruckman on the field, even with Naitanui in the game.
Guelfi’s hip and shoulder on Cole to help set up Baguley’s goal was something you’d expect from a seasoned veteran. THAT is how you use your body.
Josh Green was a little sloppy… gave away a fair few free kicks tonight. Played for a few, too.
Two goals in three quarters for West Coast. Seriously? Take two forwards out and everyone else forgets how to kick?
Amazing to think that the Eagles had two more shots at goal than the Bombers. Yeah, they got a couple of junk time shots, but bad kicking is bad footy. And the Bombers forced the Eagles into bad footy tonight. Great win on the road by Essendon.
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