Eagles smash ‘not competitive’ Bombers
West Coast was far too good for Essendon but the damage could have been much worse had the Eagles taken full advantage of their dominance, squandering a number of chances in front of goal.
It is hard to sum up Friday night's West Coast win over Essendon any other way.
It wasn't so much glass half full or glass half empty. It was glass half spilled.
The 14.22 (106) to 11.5 (71) victory was, on one hand, at least not a repeat of last year's ambush when the Bombers sat the Eagles on their backside at Optus Stadium.
But it was also a squandered opportunity to build percentage: 36 shots to 16. A whopping 24 extra inside 50s and an underwhelming 35-point win.
Josh Kennedy overcame a bout of tonsillitis to play but he and teammates could not overcome a bout of Scud missile-it is, spraying shots on goal left, right and centre.
And there may yet be a price to pay at the tribunal with Jeremy McGovern on report for pushing Bomber Matt Guelfi into the fence - a collision that left Guelfi with concussion and suspected broken ribs.
Kennedy did kick three goals, debutant Jarrod Cameron two and midfielders Dom Sheed (36 disposals and two goals), Elliot Yeo (25 disposals, 12 tackles and a goal) and Andrew Gaff (31 disposals) had big games.
But the Eagles had the Bombers at their mercy and the match on their terms for three and a half quarters and just could not convert utter dominance into a complete demolition on the scoreboard.
In the corresponding match last season Essendon had staged one of the great ambushes to kick the first eight goals of the game on their way to a 50-point lead and a 28-point win.
One of the problems for the Eagles that night was the absence of forwards Kennedy and Jack Darling. Once jumped, the Eagles laboured to hit the scoreboard and finished up with 6.16.
The Bombers got the fast start again this time but the damage was marginal. Not fatal.
Andrew McGrath, Jayden Laverde, Darcy Parish and Anthony McDonald-Tipungwuti had hit the scoreboard for the Bombers but Jamie Cripps had goaled twice for West Coast and a third to Yeo, left the home team just two points adrift at the first chance.
By half time the Eagles held a 19-point lead that could have been anything but for wasteful finishing. Kennedy had missed three he would normally nail with his eyes shut, even with a sore throat. Oscar Allen had missed twice, Liam Ryan once. Essendon were not competitive in general play, but did hit the scoreboard on their rare ventures forward.
At one point the Eagles had had 20 inside 50s in a row. The Bombers weren't so much hanging by a thread, they were being dangled by the thread the Eagles had created for them by their poor kicking.
Jarrod Cameron had kicked his first AFL goal and had nearly kicked another. Sheed built on his reputation as a pocket specialist by nailing another brilliant goal from deep in the Optus Stadium pocket. The Eagles built on their lead.
By the third quarter it was one way traffic. But there were still wasted opportunities.
Kennedy finally relocated the goals and nailed both of his third quarter shots.
Jack Darling and Jack Petruccelle also hit the scoreboard as the Eagles tried to play catch up on percentage lost in four significant defeats so far this season.
But Essendon still managed greater efficiency to keep their scoreboard ticking over.
Dylan Shiel and Bellchambers kicked the last two goals of the quarter to keep the margin from becoming catastrophic.
It was a strange game to sum up at there quarter time. The Eagles had taken 28 shots to nine, had 51 inside 50s to 27 and won the contested possession count comfortably. But the Eagles, usually the kings of efficiency, were 34 points in front, not the 60 or 70 they could have been.
It was not a margin that was likely to be challenged. But it was not a margin that was likely to mend their percentage either.
And they were unable to rectify that in the final term. The Eagles kicked 3.5, the Bombers 3.4. The final margin was 35 points. Four points earned. Major opportunity missed.
West Coast 3.4 7.14 11.17 14.22 (106)
Essendon. 4.0 6.1 8.1 11.5 (71)
Goals: West Coast: Kennedy 3, Cripps 2, Sheed 2, Cameron 2, Petruccelle 2, Darling, Ryan, Yeo.
Essendon: Begley 3, Laverde 2, McDonald Tipungwuti 1, Brown, McGrath, Bellchambers, Parish, Shiel 1 1.
Best: West Coast: Sheed, Sheppard, Yeo, Gaff Hutchings, Redden,
Essendon: Heppell, Merrett, Begley, Laverde, McKenna, Hooker.
Reports: Jeremy McGovern for rough conduct on Matt Guelfi in the first quarter, Mason Redman reported for kicking Oscar Allen in second quarter.
Injuries: Guelfi (Essendon) concussion and ribs.
Votes: 3. Dom Sheed, 2. Elliot Yeo, 1. Brad Sheppard