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Heartbreak at the 'G

Highlights | Carlton v Essendon Watch all the highlights from the Round 20 match against Essendon.

ESSENDON's finals hopes briefly flat-lined at the MCG on Saturday before a late surge carried it to an eight-point win over a brave Carlton and revived its September dreams.

The Bombers looked set for an easy day when they kicked five of the opening six goals to get out to a 28-point lead late in the first quarter. 

But from there, Carlton found a way to stifle Essendon's fast ball movement and gradually clawed its way back into the game. 

Aided by the Bombers' chronic inaccuracy in front of goal, the Blues kicked the next six goals to hit the lead midway through the third quarter when Matthew Kreuzer marked and goaled.

And when Carlton kicked two of the first three goals of the final quarter to open an 11-point lead, the Dons, who entered the game just four points outside the top eight in 10th, looked cooked.

But Anthony McDonald-Tipungwuti gave the Bombers a spark and Cale Hooker was a strong – if inaccurate – target in attack, and between them they kicked the final three goals of the game to help their team pinch an 11.18 (84) to 11.10 (76) victory.


The Dons' win came at a cost with small forward Orazio Fantasia likely to be sidelined for at least three weeks after straining his right hamstring late in the first quarter. And that cost could rise with Zach Merrett almost certain to come under MRP scrutiny for a stomach punch on Blues defender Lachie Plowman during the second quarter.

Dyson Heppell (34 possessions and 10 marks) led from the front for the Dons, while David Zaharakis (33 possessions) and David Myers (22 possessions and five inside 50s) were also influential around the ground, and Michael Hurley was rock solid in defence. 

McDonald-Tipungwuti kicked three goals while Hooker (2.5) was outstanding but for his goalkicking – although he got it right with his final set shot, which reclaimed the lead for the Bombers for good at the 24-minute mark of the final term.  

Essendon climbed into seventh on the ladder after the win aided by Melbourne's loss to GWS earlier on Saturday.

But West Coast and the Western Bulldogs could push the Dons down to ninth if they win their respective clashes against St Kilda and the Brisbane Lions. 

After the Dons' first-quarter dominance, the Blues kicked the next six goals – three of them through Matthew Wright – and held the Bombers goalless until the 17-minute mark of the third term, taking a three-point lead when Kreuzer converted a set shot from 40m midway through the quarter.

During this time, the Dons kicked 11 behinds in a row before Ben Howlett broke their goal drought with a snap from close range that put them back in the lead by three points.

Essendon coach John Worsfold said a drop in intensity was to blame for his players allowing the Blues to dictate the majority of the game.

"The first quarter was played the way we wanted the game to look … then we played the Carlton-type of game after that, which is pretty slow and gave them time to get their numbers back inside our forward line," Worsfold said.

"To their credit, they got the game the way they wanted it, but I thought the boys responded really cleverly in the last quarter to play the way we wanted them to play, to create those late scoring opportunities to win the game."

For the Blues, Liam Jones did an outstanding job on Joe Daniher after the Coleman Medal leader kicked the game's opening two goals. Jones held Daniher to just one more major for the match and took a game-high five contested marks himself.  

Fellow defender Sam Docherty (27 possessions and six rebound 50s) was also outstanding, while Marc Murphy (32 possessions), Bryce Gibbs (29 possessions) and Kreuzer (15 possessions and 38 hit-outs) gave the Blues' most of their midfield drive.

Wright (three goals) was dangerous in attack, while first-year midfielder Sam Petrevski-Seton (22 possessions) continues to develop.

Carlton coach Brendon Bolton was disappointed with the result but praised his team's ability to claw its way back into the contest. 

"It hurts, but again (we're) trying to keep some equilibrium," Bolton said.

"We fought back after a poor first 20 minutes. Great character from our guys steadied the ship. I think it's the sixth or seventh time that we've been in really tight situations and in front in last quarters and haven't been able to complete it.

"That's frustrating, it hurts, but those moments will be great learning for our young group and pay us back. The more you're in them, the more you learn, the more often you're in them eventually they'll turn for us."


Essendon: Orazio Fantasia came off the ground late in the first quarter after straining his right hamstring injury as he ran at top speed inside the Dons' forward 50. The forward emerged from the Dons' rooms soon after and spent the rest of the game on the interchange bench icing his leg. After the game, Essendon coach John Worsfold was unsure how severe Fantasia's injury was, but said he would miss at least two or three weeks.

Carlton: Jack Silvagni came off the ground midway through the second quarter with an apparent shoulder injury. The second-year forward went back on soon after but left the field again a few minutes later to consult with the Blues' medical staff. However, he returned in the third term and played out the match. 


The Bombers host Adelaide at Etihad Stadium next Saturday night. Essendon has lost its past three games against the Crows by an average margin of 86 points, including a 112-point flogging at Etihad in round 20, 2015. The Blues travel to Perth to play West Coast next Saturday night, having lost their most recent encounter against the Eagles at Domain Stadium by 69 points in round two, 2015.

ESSENDON    5.5    5.8    7.14   11.18 (84) 

CARLTON      2.1    4.4    9.5     11.10 (76)


Essendon: Daniher 3, McDonald-Tipungwuti 3, Hooker 2, Green, Howlett, Heppell
Carlton: Wright 3, Boekhorst, Petrevski-Seton, Lamb, Silvagni, C.Curnow, Kreuzer, Casboult, Gibbs


Essendon: Heppell, Zaharakis, Myers, Hurley, McDonald-Tipungwuti, Hooker
Carlton: Jones, Docherty, Murphy, Kreuzer, Gibbs, Wright