Essendon have stayed within reach of the AFL’s top eight with a 15-point victory against Greater Western Sydney on Saturday night, but lost skipper Jobe Watson late in the game with a thigh injury.
The 11.15 (81) to 9.12 (66) win at Spotless Stadium marked the Giants’ eighth straight loss, but they didn’t go down without a fight, closing to within one point in a fiery final quarter.
Backing up from an encouraging performance against Hawthorn last weekend, the fledgling club heaped plenty of pressure on their more senior opponents in front of 8,429 fans.
Both sides struggled on the slippery surface, particularly in a scrappy and low-scoring opening quarter.
It took fewer than 90 seconds for the Bombers to get on the board via late inclusion Cory Dell’Olio, in his first match of the season.
That was soon negated by the Giants’ impressive debutant Rory Lobb, who nabbed his maiden major with his first kick in the AFL.
The 21-year-old ex-basketballer, the tallest player on the club’s list at 206cm, was brought in to help plug the hole left by suspended forward Jeremy Cameron and proved mightily useful across the park.
GWS manned up well and with their early energy, stayed within eight points of the Bombers at the first break.
They burst out of the huddle in the second quarter, scoring back-to-back goals to take the lead.
But it was quickly undone by a series of turnovers, upon which Mark Thompson’s men capitalised with a pair of majors of their own, to head into the main break 5.8 (38) to 4.4 (28).
Two early second-half goals to Essendon appeared to sap the spirit out of the home team, who only managed a single goal in a lacklustre third quarter to drop 20 points behind.
The term ended on a fiery note, with a number of players involved in a melee after GWS small forward Devon Smith copped a high elbow from David Myers.
The incident, however, spurred on the Giants, who turned what was becoming an uneventful match into an exciting contest with three quick-fire goals to Adam Treloar, Rhys Palmer and Adam Tomlinson.
It took them within a whisker of the lead, until the Bombers wrested back control with three majors of their own.
Treloar took his haul to three with a consolation goal on the siren.
Essendon will now sweat on the fitness of veteran Dustin Fletcher who was subbed off midway through the third quarter with a suspected lower-back injury.
Watson also limped off in the game’s closing stages, and was applying ice to his quad as the clock ticked down.