ESSENDON 5.2 8.6 9.10 11.10 (76)
NORTH MELBOURNE 6.2 8.4 11.7 15.10 (100)
In a thrilling war of attrition at the MCG, Brad Scott’s North Melbourne have beaten Essendon by 24 points.
Despite losing two key players before quarter time, the Roos rallied to down the Dons and all but confirm their first final series since the Preliminary appearance in 2007.
The much maligned Bomber’s, meanwhile, look a chance to miss the final 8 after winning 8 of their first 9 games this season. Its all come apart for the Bombers, and their injury-riddled midfield couldn’t even handle a North team playing the majority of the game with 19 and the sub.
Even in the face of Leigh Adams once again dislocating a shoulder, and Daniel Wells pulling up lame after a calf knock, North started brightly to lead Essendon by a goal at quarter time.
Along with the two credited injuries, they also lost Lachie Hansen in the first to what was feared to be concussion. The unlucky Roo played on to kick three goals, including the sealer, but the lead was created without him.
The Bombers rallied in the second term, led as usual by the excellent Jobe Watson, to regain a 2-point lead at half time.
With the game in the grasp of Essendon, it took some famous Shinboner spirit for the new-look attacking North side to pounce on any and every mistake their opponents made and take the game to the Bombers.
Brent Harvey proved his longevity, as if he needed to, by booting three goals within two minutes to galvanize his side and turn a 4 point negative deficit into fourteen points clear.
From there, it took the work of Watson, Tom Bellchambers whose physicality troubled Todd Goldstein, the dangerous Michael Hurley and the ever reliable Dustin Fletcher to pick up the slack from some first year players whose commitment must surely be questioned by James Hird and his million dollar coaching brigade.
North led by only 9 points at three quarter time, and their gritty display was an indictment on an Essendon side who rarely managed to combine hardness and skill in a singular piece of play against their depleted opponents.
The 24-point win was also unbelievable in itself with Drew Petrie, a favourite for the Coleman Medal, failing to add a single goal to his tally. Instead, the ever improving Robbie Tarrant and the on song Hansen added 3 each – a tally sure to puzzle sides come September with how to organize their defence.
In the end, Hird and Watson were defiant in defeat – daring their side to realise their perilous ladder position. Scott, on the other hand, was seen clasping the hands of each of his coaching staff before the final siren with the look of better things to come inscribed all over his face.
3 – Sam Wright
2 – Lachie Hansen
1 – Jobe Watson
Essendon: Davey 3, Hurley 3, Crameri, Lovett-Murray, Lonergan, Melksham, Watson
North Melbourne: Harvey 3, Hansen 3, Tarrant 3, Garlett 2, Gibson 2, Wells, Wright
Essendon: Watson, Fletcher, Bellchambers, Colyer, Davey, Hurley,
North Melbourne: Harvey, Wright, McMahon, Swallow, Grima, Gibson, Goldstein, Anthony
North Melbourne: Leigh Adams (left shoulder), Daniel Wells (calf), Nathan Grima (hamstring tendonitis)
Essendon: Scott Gumbleton replaced by Angus Monfries in the third quarter
North Melbourne: Leigh Adams (left shoulder) replaced by Matt Campbell in the first quarter
Umpires: Donlon, Meredith, McInerney
Official crowd: 42,674 at Etihad Stadium
And check out…
The camera catches Chris Scott asking Gerard Healy for an apology during a cut to commercial break: