Sport AFL Brave Bombers fall just short of toppling Hawks

Brave Bombers fall just short of toppling Hawks

Cyril Rioli
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Undermanned Hawthorn withstood a second-half fightback by Essendon to record a thrilling four-point victory in the AFL match at Etihad Stadium on Friday night.

Cyril Rioli kicked the match-winner for the Hawks with little more than a minute remaining as the reigning premiers won 13.12 (90) to 12.14 (86).

Hawthorn have now won 11 of their past 14 matches against their great rivals.

Patrick Ambrose lifted the Bombers with three goals. Photo: Getty

The Hawks dominated the opening half and led by 33 points early in the third term before the Bombers made their move.

The home team kicked the only six goals of the third quarter and extended their advantage to 10 points early in the last with a goal to Jackson Merrett.

Paul Chapman – a star in so many famous wins over the Hawks in his former footballing life as a Geelong player – then looked as if he would break Hawthorn hearts again with a goal in time-on.

But the Hawks kicked the last two goals of the game through Luke Breust and Rioli to record a famous victory.

The match had an entirely different complexion in a first half dominated by Hawthorn, who were using their trademark precision-kicking style to full advantage.

The Hawks kicked the first three goals of the match to hold a 14-point lead at quarter-time.

They also dominated the second term, with Matt Suckling’s long running goal after four bounces a highlight.

Pinch-hitter Kyle Hardingham kicked two of Essendon’s meagre tally of three goals in the opening half. The other came via a free kick to Jake Carlisle.

Bombers midfielder David Zaharakis kicked the opening goal of the third quarter, which turned out to be the first of seven on the trot for the Bombers.

Second-gamer Patrick Ambrose kicked two successive majors for the Bombers and ended the match with a game-high three.

Hawthorn skipper Luke Hodge was substituted out of the match midway through the third quarter with what appeared to be a groin strain, while Essendon lost ruckman Paddy Ryder to an ankle problem around the same time.

With former Hawks captain Sam Mitchell (soreness) a late withdrawal and Brad Sewell on the injured list, the Hawthorn midfield had a makeshift look about it.

Hawthorn now take on Fremantle in the grand final rematch at the MCG next Friday night, while Essendon host Carlton at the MCG on April 6.