Sport AFL AFL: Bombers run Hawks ragged to keep finals hopes alive

AFL: Bombers run Hawks ragged to keep finals hopes alive

Essendon's Zach Merrett drives the ball forward. Photo: Getty
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Essendon has kept its finals hopes alive with a 19-point win over Hawthorn at Marvel Stadium, although it may have come at a cost with key forward Jake Stringer suffering a leg injury.

Stringer left the ground and did not return after taking an awkward knock on his lower-leg in the third quarter.

The Bombers won 14 12 (96) to 11 11 (77), taking their season tally to 6-6.

Essendon midfielder Darcy Parish said he was enjoying the Bombers fast-flowing gameplan

“[The] coaches have backed me in and gave me real belief to play
my way with real freedom. Not worrying about structures and taking care of the footy. It’s been good,” he told Channel Seven

“It’s fast brand of footy. [I’ll be] stuffed tomorrow. We had big emphasis on getting up the ground this week and defending forward half. We did well tonight.”

Adding to a dirty night for the Hawks, captain Ben Stratton is in the spotlight for repeatedly pinching opponent Orazio Fantasia.

Television coverage showed the Bombers forward with several small bruises on the back of his upper left arm.

“I’ve got a couple of bruises on the arm, Strats loves to pinch … he’s a really good defender,” Fantasia told Channel Seven.

Essendon broke out to a 38-point lead in the last quarter before the Hawks hit back with three goals.

Essendon midfielder Zach Merrett was best afield with 28 possessions and a goal.

Hawthorn started James Sicily in attack and led by a point after a dour opening term.

The Bombers threatened to break clear with the first two goals of the second quarter, but the Hawks kept pace and Essendon missed a couple of very gettable shots.

Hawks small forward Paul Puopolo also had a long-range shot on the halftime siren that should have been no score.

But remarkably, Sicily’s clever block wrong-footed defenders Michael Hurley and Matt Guelfi and the ball went through for a goal.

Hawthorn only trailed by three points at the main break before Essendon again opened the third term with two quick goals.

Hawthorn could not move the ball forward and Essendon took a 29-point lead late in the third term.

Tempers flared on the three-quarter time siren, with the 173cm Puopolo firing up against 202cm ruckman Tom Bellchambers, who responded by patting him on the head.

But there was no addition to the infamous brawls over the last three decades that have punctuated the fierce rivalry between these clubs.

Trailing by 23 points at the last change, Hawthorn could only manage three behinds at the start of the final quarter.

Predictably, Essendon made them pay with three goals and that proved enough.

Apart from a big mark in the third term, Essendon forward Anthony McDonald-Tipungwuti was kept quiet and his only shot at goal late in the last term was a behind.

Previously this season, Essendon had lost every time McDonald-Tipungwuti had failed to kick a goal.

The Bombers have a quick turnaround, heading to Perth for a match against West Coast on Thursday night.

-with AAP