Bombers stun Eagles
Essendon has done what no other team has done so far in season 2021, defeat the Eagles at Optus Stadium with a 16 point triumph on Saturday night.
The Eagles led at one stage by 29 points only for the visitors to kick 9 of the last 11 goals to win 12.15 (87) to 11.5 (71), Alec Waterman kicking the sealer against his former club to have bragging rights over brother Jake, who kicked two majors himself after coming in to the game as a medical sub for Tim Kelly (knee).
Adam Simpson's side was counting the cost of another defeat and injuries to key players, Kelly set for a stint on the sidelines after injuring his medial ligament early in the second quarter.
Oscar Allen failed to return after half time after suffering a concussion after a heavy fall, leaving the Eagles short on rotations with Elliot Yeo being managed in his comeback game from osteitis pubis.
West Coast started enterprisingly with three of the game's first four goals, Jack Darling, Liam Ryan and Jack Petruccelle all hitting the scoreboard.
The Bombers gradually got on top around the contest through midfield guns Darcy Parish and Zach Merrett, kicking 2.4 for the quarter to only trail by two points at the first break.
Having had 11 disposals in the opening stanza Kelly exited the game early in the second quarter, but an inspired burst from the Eagles in his absence had the home side sitting pretty with a 29 point lead as half time approached.
Jake Waterman made an inspired entrance as medical sub to replace Kelly, bursting off the interchange bench to snap a goal from the right forward pocket as the Eagles went in to half time with an unblemished record in front of goal, kicking 9.0 to the major break.
Essendon kicked the final two goals of the half to reduce the deficit to 17, but when Josh Kennedy slotted his third goal early in the third it appeared the Eagles would run away with the game.
Think again. The Bombers kicked the final four goals of the quarter to get within three points at the final break, Nik Cox missing a chance to put them in front just before the siren as the Eagles began to wilt with injuries to key players.
Jake Stringer snapped truly to give the Dons the lead in the opening salvos of the final term, a lead they wouldn't relinquish as the Eagles could only draw level through Jake Waterman at the 13 minute mark.
Stringer was superb as he slotted his third, before the older Waterman brother had the last laugh and the straight kick that mattered, sealing the result with a set shot from 30 metres in a fitting finale for the Dons.
The result leaves Essendon inside the top eight with a 6-5 record with three games still to come in the round, set for an extended stay in Perth with the Dreamtime clash with Richmond likely to be moved to Optus Stadium due to Victoria's covid-19 lockdown.
Merrett (37 disposals) and Parish (36) were outstanding for the Bombers in midfield, giving their side first use out of the centre while Kyle Langford (28 disposals and a goal) also had an impact, often deputising as a second ruckman despite being undersized.
Dom Sheed had 43 disposals in a supreme showing but lacked support after Kelly's early injury, Andrew Gaff with 31 touches and Nic Naitanui 20 disposals (6 clearances) to go with 40 hitouts as he tried valiantly to lift his side in the ruck.
Eagles coach Adam Simpson lamented a disappointing finish for his side, their second straight loss.
"“The will to win was there for the most part, but not the whole part. The game was on the line for the last ten minutes and we didn’t do enough, they did." he said.
“As the game went on, we couldn’t sustain our effort.”
Dual Eagles best and fairest Yeo got through his first game at AFL level in ten months unscathed, finishing with 14 disposals and 315 metres gained from 80 minutes of football.
Simpson said the 27 year old would be better for the run.
"“He was a bit rusty early, he will build his minutes through the year. He will work his way into it.”
While the Bombers are set to remain in Perth for their clash with Richmond the Eagles are likely to face round 12 opponent Carlton at the Sydney Cricket Ground, with the AFL set to confirm the venue change in the coming days.
IMAGE: Fox Sports.