Who would’ve predicted 11th v 15th on the ladder would have been a better game than the Grand Final rematch?
GWS and Essendon have played out one of the contests of the season at GIANTS Stadium, the home team eventually holding on to prevail by just two points.
They were two teams not known for their consistency in season 2021, yet the see-sawing affair was more volatile and desperate than anyone could have tipped.
The Bombers were down by five goals at the 30-minute mark of the first quarter, as their consistency was once again under fire. Subject to multiple heavy losses in the first seven rounds, critics were lining up to go after the Bombers after seemingly handing up the match already.
But the response from Essendon was as incredible as it was unexpected. The roles reversed as suddenly the Giants looked like Deers’ in the headlights, such was the intensity of the Bombers rebound and run game, slicing open the middle of the ground in a dominant display of AFL.
Giants third-gamer Zach Sproule kicked a late goal to put the home side up by ten points, but it was well and truly game on at half time.
Jeremy Finlayson kicked two in a row as the Giants kicked the opening four of the third quarter, but yet another fightback saw Essendon kick four of the next five goals before the Giants steadied with a couple of late majors.
25 points down at 3 quarter time, having seemingly thrown everything at the Giants already, the signs weren’t great for the Bombers. The men from Sydney’s west appeared destined to waltz into the Saturday nightlife with a win that would keep them in touch with the top eight, yet the Dons simply wouldn't say die.
Two goals inside three minutes for Ben Rutten’s troops meant that three more straight kicks would have them infront, with most of the quarter to play.
There were fired up supporters on each side, as there should be with both clubs still fighting to prove themselves in season 2021.
Two of the next three to the Bombers saw them continue their run and make it an eight-point ball game with ten minutes to play.
Kyle Langford kicked two late goals, yet a Jacob Hopper left foot snap just seconds after Cale Hooker was denied what appeared to be a clear-cut free kick and the opportunity to put Essendon in front landed up being the difference.
We saw two great midfield go at it, ‘Tippa’ doing what ‘Tippa’ does, and an angry forward making amends.
Here’s everything you need to know!
It was a battle of four midfield bulls on Saturday afternoon, two for each side.
All were pivotal in establishing and keeping the momentum at different times for their clubs.
Darcy Parish, Zach Merrett, Tim Taranto and Josh Kelly had a combined 131 possessions and almost two kilometres gained between them and were dynamic and dangerous all game long.
Taranto and Kelly were huge in pushing back off the Bombers every time they were challenged, yet Merrett and Parish were equally up to the task in inspiring their teammates to keep the fight up at the coalface.
Today we saw four of the in-form midfielders of the competition go at it, and it was AFL at its best.
Anthony McDonald-Tipungwuti was a livewire all day, kicking two big goals.
However, what the stats sheet won’t tell you is his ten second piece of play in the third quarter that reignited the Bombers when the team was in serious trouble.
The Giants were up by 30 points at the time, in the midst of a huge run on having kicked the last four.
He stuck a huge hip-and-shoulder on a poor Jacob Hopper, causing the ball to spill and another contest, before charging down a helpless Tom Greene just seconds later in the same spot to win the free for his team.
Archie Perkins would kick his first goal in AFL in the following piece of play, and Essendon would kick three of the next four to put themselves right back in contention.
Finlayson wacks Merrett, then wacks the scoreboard:
Finlayson cleaned up Merrett with a nasty hit to the back of the head after the midfielder had disposed of the ball in the second quarter, in an incident likely to draw the ire of Match Review Officer Michael Christian.
Finlayson had been up and about early, but it would have been easy to drop his head after such a silly mistake.
However, he soldiered on and was a crucial in the Giants’ early third quarter blitz.
He may miss next week, but he’ll have the comfort of knowing that his performance impacted the result today.
The Giants had a tough start to the year but have since roared back to life with four wins from their last five games. It’s still hard to know where they sit, but we’ll know in three weeks’ time. Games against Richmond, West Coast and Brisbane are to come, and if they can pinch one or two of those they’ll put themselves on the radar for the top eight once again.
If you take out Essendon’s games against Brisbane and Port Adelaide, their form suggests they are right in the mix for top eight. However, two must win games at Marvel Stadium will decide their fate, against Fremantle and North Melbourne. Win those both and they stay in calculation, lose one or two and the line goes through them.
GWS Giants: 6.2, 7.4, 14.8, 16.11. (107)
Essendon: 2.2, 5.7, 10.7, 16.9. (105)
GWS Giants: Finlayson 3, Greene 2, Kelly 2, Sproule 2, Bruhn 2, Himmelberg, Lloyd, Hopper, Taranto, Hill
Essendon: Langford 3, Snelling 2, McDonald-Tipungwuti 2, Wright 2, Jones 2, Redman, Perkins, Guelfi, Cox, Hooker
GWS Giants: Taranto, Kelly, Greene, Green, Taylor
Essendon: Parish, Merrett, Hind, Langford, Phillips
GWS Giants: nil
Essendon: Jake Stringer (hamstring)