Essendon 5.2 10.6 11.13 16.15 (111)
Port Adelaide 5.2 7.3 12.5 13.8 (86)
After a fiery and speedy opening quarter, Essendon has fought out a scrappy win against a determined Port Adelaide team at Etihad Stadium.
The match was full of errors – forced, unforced and perceived pressure kicks and decisions.
It made for a lot of chance goal opportunities but eventually the sheer amount of inside 50s and pressure the Bombers created lead to the 25-point victory.
Port were only down by two points at three-quarter-time, but the Bombers can thank fantastic final-quarter performances from Brent Stanton (25 disposals and 2 goals), Jobe Watson (25 disposals and 13 tackles) and Leroy Jetta (15 disposals and 4 goals) as they eventually broke away from a stubborn Power outfit.
The first quarter started with Port playing in similar fashion to their opening game against the Saints, with numbers all around the contest.
David Hille opened the scoring with a fantastic left-foot snap from a stoppage before Port responded with successive goals to Jay Schulz, JohnMcCarthy and Chad Wingard from a 50m penalty to open up an early lead.
Hille was subbed off late in the first quarter with a strained calf, leaving Paddy Ryder to shoulder the ruck-work for the remainder of the game.
Essendon were sloppy, kicking into the man on the mark twice and losing out a four-on-one forward thrust due to Nathan Lovett-Murray slipping over, but eventually responded with two quick goals to David Zaharakis (after a fantastic flying punch in the midfield from Kyle Hardingham) and Stanton (driving from midfield, then going forward and kicking the goal) to take back the lead.
After Hille was subbed off, Jarrad Redden and Justin Westhoff kicked chance goals within 30 seconds of each other to leave Essendon staring at a 12-point deficit coming into the first break. Essendon were leading the inside 50s 20 to nine at quarter time, and while the scores were level, this was to be an ominous sign for Port as the game continued.
Wingard started the second quarter in scorching fashion, drawing free kicks from pressure and gaining possessions up the ground.
Matthew Broadbent tirelessly cleared the ball from Port’s defensive 50 before Paul Stewart provided some spark to a stagnating game with a great collect and goal from 50 metres out.
Wingard copped some friendly fire halfway through the term; although it didn’t look much, Wingard had his eye patched and did not take further part in the game.
Although Jackson Trengove and Troy Chaplin were strong in defence, Essendon’s relentless pressure wore them down as they ended the second quarter in compelling fashion.
Nearly three-quarters of the way through the term Essendon finally kicked their first with Stanton on the good end of a 50m penalty, before Courtney Dempsey kicked a fantastic long goal from a tough angle to give Essendon the momentum heading into half-time.
Essendon’s dominance continued into the third term but they squandered early opportunities for goal, allowing Port Adelaide to maintain striking distance.
A highlight of their lack of composure was shown when Travis Boak murdered a kick which feebly dribbled away from him, but only ended up as a rushed behind.
Port Adelaide eventually took advantage of the situation: David Rodan was brilliant in the middle as Boak and Hamish Hartlett finally started getting into the game.
Essendon’s pressure was immense but they were still sloppy, giving away 50- metre penalties and soft free kicks which allowed Port to bring the margin back to two at the final break.
Essendon were workman-like and resolute against a tired Port Adelaide in the last quarter, who blazed away up forward and could not take their opportunities.
Dustin Fletcher was strong in defence as Essendon began to work their way on top of the Power across the ground.
Hurley finally kicked his first after a day of wayward kicking and Jetta put the icing on the cake to top off a fantastic day personally with a minute remaining on the clock.
Ryder was dominant in a dynamic solo performance in the ruck throughout the game, getting 46 hit-outs as Essendon won the count by 23 overall.
The Bombers took the points, but Matthew Primus should be fairly comfortable in his mind that Port Adelaide are well on their way to his goal of earning ‘respect’. Essendon looked like a finals side in points, but will also have to iron out quite a few kinks to be truly competitive in the business end of the season.
3. Brent Stanton
2. Patrick Ryder
1. Jobe Watson
Essendon: Jetta 4, Crameri 3, Stanton 2, Carlisle, Dempsey, Hille, Howlett, Hurley, Monfries, Zaharakis
Port Adelaide: Schulz 4, Westhoff 3, Ebert, McCarthy, Redden, P.Stewart, Thomas, Wingard
Essendon: Stanton, Ryder, Watson, Jetta, Monfries, Dempsey, Fletcher
Port Adelaide: Schulz, Trengove, Cassisi, Cornes, Rodan
34,118 at Etihad Stadium