It was a rainy Sunday arvo so I sat myself down in front of the TV to watch the Blues and the Bombers. I have to say I was a bit worried, as I rate Essendon as a markedly better team and if there is a one-sided game on, I lose interest faster than Natasha Exelby.
The early minutes of the game seemed to be in keeping with my expectations, with the Bombers doing most of the attacking and Carlton finding it hard to get past half way except through Casboult’s powerful marking. One such mark was the catalyst for the first goal of the game, as Casboult kicked it long inside 50. No one could mark it but good work by Petrevski-Seton (who had an excellent game) made a chance for Cripps who snapped it off a step from about 30 metres out.
The Blues then seemed to go up a gear and began winning more of the ball around the ground. They butchered a couple of good chances to go further in front, before the Bombers hit back with Parish converting his shot after a strong mark and then Mcdonald-Tippungwuti shrugging a couple of tacklers to goal shortly after.
Carlton should have got the lead back again, but their kicking for goal was about as accurate as Breitbart’s reporting of ‘news’ and it was the Bombers who extended their lead when Daniher marked Stanton’s kick and nailed the resultant set shot.
Essendon went to the break with a seven point lead that they perhaps didn’t deserve. Carlton had certainly looked to be working harder in close, but Essendon’s edge in class with the ball had been decisive at times.
The second quarter started better for the Blues, with Kreuzer getting free to mark inside 50 and goal early on. They continued to push the ball forward and create chances, while at the other end, Marshbank, Ploughman, Rowe and Docherty were repelling attacks as firmly as the Liberal Party rebuffs any suggestion of changing negative gearing laws. The wet ground had been affecting play from the start but during the second quarter, the rain clouds returned and began dumping water quicker than the Queensland government can give it away to the Adani Corporation.
Weitering was taken off after a head knock, but Carlton didn’t miss a step, with Murphy snapping a goal in what seemed almost impossible congestion soon after to give his side the lead. For all of a minute anyway, as the Bombers replied almost immediately with good ball movement that found Goddard in space in the centre of the ground. The former Saint streamed forward and kicked for goal from at least 60 metres and watched the ball skid through on the wet grass.
The impressive Petrevski-Seton crumbed another goal for the Blues early in the second half and the Blues were looking an increasingly realistic chance for the win. They were scrapping hard and running harder to get numbers around every contest, pressing with the relentless single-mindedness of Malcolm Turnbull shouting, “Jobs and Growth.” In the driving rain, there were no shortage of errors too and the Bombers looked to open them up on the counter, but often seemed to break down going inside 50, where the Carlton defence were outplaying their direct opponents and teaming well.
Hooker was gifted a free kick straight in front for a hold and his set shot reclaimed the lead for the Bombers, but only until Murphy kicked a miraculous checkside goal from the boundary line. The Carlton captain’s effort was answered again when Langford marked and goaled from a Heppell mis-kick close to three-quarter time.
The Bombers finally seemed to find their own desperation in the fourth quarter, winning more of the ball and getting it into their forward half, but the Carlton defence was brilliant, at times helped by poor execution and decision making by Essendon forwards. Zaharakis in particular missed a glaring opportunity to keep the game close after a quick snap by Curnow had opened Carlton’s lead to nearly two goals (which felt like four in the heavy rain).
With the Bombers failing to make the most of their chances, Kerridge all but sealed the game at the other end when he goaled from a free kick for kicking in danger (a rule that had been officiated with a fairly flexible interpretation throughout the afternoon).
Best on Ground
For the Bombers, Heppell, Watson and Merrett all did a bit, but they were part of a midfield group that was well beaten on the day. McDonald-Tippungwuti caused the Blues some problems with his running and tackling, without doing enough to be a match winner. Conversely, there were a long list of heroes for the Blues. Often-maligned players such as Murphy and Gibbs were both excellent and I should also give some props to Dale Thomas, whose career prospects seemed about as promising as Mark Latham’s during the week, but I thought he worked hard today, despite letting himself down with a few poor kicks. Casboult’s marking and contesting around the ground was also important while the backline withstood a ton of pressure and won numerous one-on-one contests. In the end I thought Docherty was about the most important player on the ground, winning contests in his own right as well as getting free to mop up Essendon kicks inside 50.