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Hawks feast on Bombers

Essendon's Ben Howett tackles Hawthorn's Lance Franklin.

Essendon's Ben Howett tackles Hawthorn's Lance Franklin. Photo: Sebastian Costanzo

HAWTHORN 6.1 10.6 16.10 22.11 (143) ESSENDON 4.3 5.4 9.6 13.9 (87)
GOALS Hawthorn: Franklin 8, Roughead 4, Gunston 2, Lewis 2, Breust 2, Puopolo 2, Rioli, Hale. Essendon: Hurley 3, Bellchambers 2, Goddard, Stanton, Dell’Olio, Myers, Jetta, Kommer, Ryder, Colyer.
BEST Hawthorn: Franklin, Mitchell, Roughead, Hodge, Puopolo, Gibson, Sewell, Lewis Essendon: Heppell, Bellchambers, Melksham, Hurley
UMPIRES Mollison, Nicholls, McInerney.
CROWD 49,505, at Etihad Stadium.

Hawthorn and Essendon don't like each other much, a legacy of the brutal battles in the 1980s and the odd brawl since. But on recent showings, the Hawks do like playing Essendon.

And Lance Franklin has a particular fondness for playing the red and blacks, having twice booted nine goals against them and averaging exactly five goals a game versus the Dons (fifty in ten games).

Essendon's Michael Hibberd makes a grab for Hawthorn's Brian Lake.

Essendon's Michael Hibberd makes a grab for Hawthorn's Brian Lake. Photo: Sebastian Costanzo

Buddy surpassed his standard for Essendon games, with eight goals and recaptured some of the audacity that has been absent from his game lately. To say that he was well supported by fellow forward Jarryd Roughead would be inaccurate, since Roughead is no second banana these days; Roughie's back in front of Josh Kennedy in the Coleman Medal (54 goals) contest.

This game pitted first against second on the ladder, but the outcome revealed the reality that Essendon is actually a developing team some lengths behind the more seasoned and skilful Hawks. In the corresponding game last year, the hamstrung Bombers were dismembered by 94 points. They have improved dramatically and become a top six side, but they certainly didn't look like a team capable of troubling the Hawks in September, as Geelong and Sydney might. Regaining Jobe Watson, as James Hird hoped they would, for next weekend's game against Collingwood would obviously help close that gap.

That the Dons have been comprehensively beaten by Hawthorn, the Cats and Sydney this year arguably is a truer measure of their standing than the ladder.

Hawthorn's Cyril Rioli leaves Patrick Ryder floundering. Click for more photos

AFL Essendon v Hawthorn

Hawthorn confirmed it's number one position on the AFL ladder with a resounding 56 point win over Essendon at Etihad Stadium, Melbourne. Photo: Sebastian Costanzo

If Franklin's deadly eight was the headline act, Buddy should donate some of whatever he earns to his teammates, especially to Sam Mitchell, whose delivery – not just to Franklin – made him close behind Buddy in terms of value on the night.

Mitchell, renowed as a great extractor from stoppages, has been playing a different game this year, in that he's played outside the scrimmages where he has thrived for a decade.

His first 24 disposals included just two contested balls, yet he inflicted severe damage on the Dons.

Luke Hodge overcame some shoddy early disposals – and a defensive mismatch – to be among the better players.

But the Hawthorn effort was collective and not simply based upon the talents of four or five superstars. Paul Puopolo surely has seldom produced more, his 23 disposals – 11 of them contested – complementing the toil of Josh Gibson, Brad Sewell, Brent Guerra and others.

The majority Essendon crowd didn't fall silent, despite the one-sided score and, in Roughead, they even found someone to jeer. He had been involved in a decent clash with Jake Melksham, the former pugilist, and the Dons crowd hooted him as if he was Andrew Demetriou.

The Hawks took control of the contest from the middle of the opening quarter with their precision kicking game and superior forward firepower. While their ascendancy was gradual, it was also clearcut and by half-time the margin had climbed to 32.

This season five-goal deficits have been wiped off regularly, and the Bombers have managed this twice, but one did not fancy their prospects against the flag favourites.

The starkest difference between the sides was in the Hawks' ability to keep possession. In the opening half, they had 50 more uncontested balls than the Dons, a reflection of their superior composure and skill. The Dons were far from poor – they played at the level of a finals team for much of the game. It was just that the Hawks were a notch above.

The opening quarter, played at both high intensity and speed, saw the Bombers build an initial break of 13 points, at four goals to two, capitalising on rapid ball movement, excellent ball use and a mismatch in which the giant Tom Bellchambers was matched against Hodge.

Essendon clearly sought to stretch the smallish Hawthorn defence, by deploying Bellchambers alongside Joey Daniher and Michael Hurley, who switched between attack and defence at different stages. Hurley would finish with 3.3 and was energetic. Dyson Heppell and Bellchambers were among the few Dons able to reverse the one-way traffic of this match while Jake Melksham fought hard — literally so in view of his report.

Bellchambers converted an early goal after marking one-out against the Hawthorn skipper, who was soon replaced by the taller Brian Lake. The Dons were most dangerous when rebounding and breaking into a more open attack as the Hawks pressed.

But Hawthorn was winning more of the ball, both in the contests and on the spread and gradually asserted control, as Mitchell, a revived Sewell and Jordan Lewis got busy, while Roughead and, particularly, Franklin imposed themselves in dramatic fashion.

Franklin, who has performed better against Essendon than virtually any other club, was again invigorated by the sight of red and black jumpers, booting three goals for the first quarter. Buddy was matched with Essendon's emerging gun defender Jake Carlisle and was smart enough to turn their contest into one of mobility. Carlisle, an aerial specialist, could not contain Buddy on the lead or the ground – though anyone would have struggled against some of the delivery.

Cale Hooker is among the game's most improved players this season, excelling in intercepting opposition kicks. But in Roughead he faced a more formidable opponent than usual.

Hooker's situation encapsulated his team's. It was a steep step up in class.

SEWELL ON SONG

Brad Sewell being dropped three weeks ago perhaps was the wakeup call he required in the run to the finals. The hard-nosed midfielder was firmly on his game against the Bombers. His tenacity and grunt in the clinches – and ability to find the ball – is what has had him reinstated over the past fortnight. He had 14 disposals in the first half when the Hawks were full of spice.

VETERANS SPREAD WINGS

The Hawks midfield has been labelled as "ageing" since their second loss this season to Geelong and Sewell was the one that copped the brunt of it. It appeared Alastair Clarkson may have opted to experiment with youth in the midfield with Jed Anderson waiting in the wings for a recall – but he stuck true with their veterans. Sewell, Jordan Lewis, Sam Mitchell and Luke Hodge showed their ability on a fast track while Brad Hill and Cyril Rioli injected energy when required, and the more seasoned bodies appear likely to lead the group again for another flag tilt.

HOT SECOND QUARTER

It was the second quarter where everything clicked for the Hawks. Lance Franklin danced around two opponents to snap a goal over his shoulder that many players would kick out on the full. Rioli accelerated through the midfield, responding to an Essendon goal in a matter of seconds and Hodge used his skills to pinpoint the passes that stuck. Hawthorn kicked 4.5 to 1.1 and the 32-point deficit at the main break could have been worse. - BRENT DIAMOND

15 comments so far

  • Watched a great movie last night called "Big ears and the great pretenders".

    Commenter
    Captain Grumpy
    Location
    Kingsville
    Date and time
    July 27, 2013, 8:07AM
    • That wildlife doco was more impressive, "How Cats feast on Hawks in Autumn"

      Commenter
      JIM
      Location
      Bayside
      Date and time
      July 27, 2013, 10:20AM
    • Ahhh Jim...

      Being a Hawk supporter, autumn is fine with me.

      We play in zones degrees south my friend......

      Commenter
      LM
      Location
      Other Hemisphere
      Date and time
      July 27, 2013, 1:19PM
  • Alister Clarkson's strategy of a more measured strategy heading into the finals has had a temporary setback, the rampaging hawks were magnificent...all the club needs now is a roll of duct tape and wrap it around Jeff Kennett's head , just below the nose ( enabling breathing of course ).

    No more Kennett curses.

    Commenter
    Offenhauser
    Location
    East Geelong
    Date and time
    July 27, 2013, 8:42AM
    • Good idea, but no need to enable breathing.

      Commenter
      Penster
      Location
      Bondi
      Date and time
      July 27, 2013, 11:46AM
  • How do you defend and who? Roughhead, Franklin, Gunston............ oh then Hale, Breust and Riolli. Gosh the list keeps going. Well done Hawks for playing the straight bat against a side that has taken a heavy toll on what's best and fairest.

    Commenter
    BBj
    Date and time
    July 27, 2013, 10:07AM
    • Gotta love those Essendon fans. They were very quick to judge the West Coast fans for booing one of their own but were quite freely having shots at Roughead, despite being the receiver of the hit by Melksham.

      Commenter
      gdown64
      Date and time
      July 27, 2013, 11:06AM
      • Umpiring was horrible Essendon could not buy a free kick in the first half. Nicholls, McInerney and Mollison should be dropped.

        Commenter
        The Truth
        Date and time
        July 27, 2013, 11:26AM
        • Oh Essendon cannot buy a free kick because they have spent all their money on "Supplements" which by the way seem to be wearing of.

          Commenter
          Pieron
          Date and time
          July 27, 2013, 12:49PM
        • The Truth is free kicks aren't material goods, that's why you can't buy them. When are you guys from Windy Pill going to learn?

          Wonder when Devo Stank will replace the Geish so that the EFC will feel they are getting a fair shot at it?

          Commenter
          LM
          Location
          Other Hemisphere
          Date and time
          July 27, 2013, 1:26PM

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