Sport AFL Bombers shoot down Eagles
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Bombers shoot down Eagles

jobe watson return
The Essendon skipper will line up with his teammates for the 2017 AFL season. Photo: AAP
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A barnstorming third quarter saved Essendon’s blushes and quite possibly their AFL finals campaign on Saturday, when West Coast went down by three points at Etihad Stadium.

The Bombers entrenched themselves in the top eight and likely put paid to the Eagles’ slim finals hopes by coming from behind to win 11.11 (77) to 11.8 (74).

Essendon booted seven of the game’s final eight goals, reclaiming the lead with a tick over 11 minutes to play and holding on despite some tense moments.

Josh Hill had a chance to put the Eagles back in front with two minutes remaining when he took a strong mark on the 50m arc, but from a difficult position he could only muster a behind.

The hosts had blitzed the opening five minutes of the clash, returning captain Jobe Watson taking 13 seconds to kick a stellar goal.

Essendon then went from freewheeling to downright foolish – playing on haphazardly, butchering the ball and generally looking bereft of confidence.

The Eagles benefited from turnover after turnover to take a 34-point lead early in the third term.

For the second week in a row, it seemed the Bombers had fluffed their lines against a fellow finals aspirant.

But momentum swung in incredible fashion.

The Bombers banged on five goals in the space of 11 minutes, leaving the visitors shellshocked and ahead by only 11 points at the final break.

Jason Winderlich booted two goals in that hot run and had a hand in another.

Some 15 minutes earlier, the retiring Winderlich had symbolised his side’s woes when he took a mark 10 metres directly in front of the goal posts but elected to play on and kicked a behind.

Winderlich and David Zaharakis, one of Essendon’s best, kicked the only goals to come in a dramatic final quarter.

Dyson Heppell (38 touches and four clearances) lifted his side in the second half, while returning Michael Hibberd (32 disposals) impressed.

The Bombers face Gold Coast and Carlton in the next fortnight, leaving them well placed to make the finals.

Judging by the whole game, it is unlikely they will trouble the likes of Sydney, Geelong and Hawthorn in September.

But based on the incredible third-term blitzkrieg, anything is possible.

AAP