Pies prevail in thrilling Anzac Day trench warfare
The barest of touches of a boot and the barest of margins have separated Collingwood from Essendon.
The Magpies won a thrilling Anzac Day AFL clash 11.14 (80) to 11.13 (79) at the MCG yesterday, in front of 86,932 fans, thanks mainly to Dane Swan's magnificent performance.
But the midfield marvel's Anzac Medal-winning 42 disposals, 13 clearances and three goals would have been wasted, if not for a dribbled winner from Jarryd Blair, confirmed after a tense wait for a video referral. It was the last score of a nerve-jangling final term.
Essendon coach James Hird expressed great pride in his team despite the loss.
Collingwood coach Nathan Buckley said he would have felt likewise even if a Brent Stanton goal which gave Essendon the lead two minutes from full-time had been the winner.
''But ultimately, after they'd invested so much through the game, credit to them. They were able to find a little bit more in that last couple of minutes to kick the final score,'' Buckley said.
He said his team, missing premiership stars Luke Ball, Dale Thomas, Heath Shaw, Alan Didak, Ben Reid and Chris Tarrant, had set the bar for their season.
''It's the closest thing we've given to a four-quarter performance this year,'' Buckley said.
It was Essendon's first defeat and gave the Magpies a positive win-loss record (3-2) for the first time.
The Magpies looked superior for much of the day, particularly the first half, when Swan, Scott Pendlebury and Dayne Beams controlled the midfield, Harry O'Brien excelled as a defensive sweeper and Travis Cloke threatened in attack.
Essendon's Stewart Crameri, who starred with 5.6 against Carlton four days earlier, was superbly held by Nathan Brown, in a brilliant comeback from knee injuries by the Magpies defender, playing his first AFL game since the 2010 grand final.
Irishman Marty Clarke also played a top stopping role, keeping midfielder Brent Stanton to two touches for the first half and 13 overall.
But the Bombers stayed in touch, helped by some Collingwood misses.
A sprayed Chris Dawes set shot late in the first half allowed Essendon to race away for an Alwyn Davey goal, keeping the half-time margin to two goals.
After the break, Collingwood's Tyson Goldsack was denied a soccer goal by a baffling decision on video referral, allowing the Bombers to again whisk the ball away and goal.
It meant they were still within two goals at the last change, despite a heroic 13-touch, two-goal quarter from Swan.
The buffer stretched to three majors, before a goal to substitute Cory Dell'Olio and two to Davey tied the scores.
Another Magpies miss, from Ben Sinclair, allowed Essendon to hit the front through Stanton's snap, but only for about 40 seconds, before Blair pounced on a ball that slipped over a goal square pack.
''You never want to let the ball get out the back on a wet day,'' Hird said, adding it was something the Bombers could learn from. AAP
AT A GLANCE
COLLINGWOOD 2.4 5.6 9.8 11.14 (80)
ESSENDON 1.3 3.6 7.8 11.13 (79)
Goals: Collingwood: D Swan 3 T Cloke 3 J Blair 2 D Beams D Jolly S Sidebottom. Essendon: A Davey 3 D Zaharakis 2 A Monfries B Howlett B Stanton C Dell'Olio H Hocking S Lonergan.
Best: Collingwood: D Swan S Pendlebury B Johnson D Beams N Maxwell N Brown M Clarke. Essendon: D Zaharakis D Heppell R Dyson D Fletcher S Lonergan.
Umpires: Chris Donlon, Matt Stevic, Simon Meredith.
Crowd: 86,932 at MCG.
Best: Collingwood: D Swan S Pendlebury B Johnson D Beams N Maxwell N Brown M Clarke S Wellingham H O'Brien. Essendon: D Zaharakis D Heppell R Dyson D Fletcher S Lonergan.
Injuries: Collingwood: Nil. Essendon: M Hibberd (hamstring).