Essendon has survived a last quarter comeback from Richmond to win their final home-and-away match of the Peter Jackson VFL season at Windy Hill. Leading by 35 points at the final change, the Bombers were in control, but the Tigers kicked the first five goals of the final term to edge within six points before the home side steadied to win 12.8.80 to 9.9.63.
High flyer Kyle Hardingham booted a game-high three goals for the Bombers and Jacob Thompson and Daniel Willis kicked two each, while for the Tigers, Liam McBean booted two, which was enough to share the ‘Frosty’ Miller Medal with Port Melbourne’s Jordan Lisle and Box Hill’s Sam Grimley with 42 for the year, while Matt McDonough (27 disposals) also kicked two.
Goals were hard to come by early as rain fell and a tricky wind blew across ground towards the old scoreboard pocket. Just the one goal was scored in the first quarter from the boot of Hardingham and it wasn't until the 12 minute mark of the second term before Richmond registered their first goal thanks to former Benalla boy Nick Mellington.
The Bombers defence was well led by Ariel Steinberg and Tayte Pears while Jason Ashby and Liam Byrne found plenty of the footy as the Bombers gave the Tigers the slip nearing half-time, booting the last three goals of the half to lead by 19 points at the main break – 5.3.33 to 1.8.14.
Richmond defenders Matt Dea (31 disposals, 9 marks) and David Astbury (23, 10 marks) worked hard in the half and if it wasn't for them the lead may well have been bigger. McBean had been well held by Pears and the Tigers needed a lift from him and the more experienced Chris Knights (29 disposals) and Andrew McQualter.
When Kyle Langford (24 disposals) marked and goaled 23 minutes into the third quarter the lead was out to 45 points and it looked how far the Bombers. Late goals to Anthony Scott and McBean for the Tigers reduced the margin to under six goals at the final change.
The showers eased and so did the Bombers intensity in the last quarter as the Tigers slammed on the first five goals of the term and when McDonough goaled twelve minutes in they were within six points! The Tigers midfield was winning the stoppages and they were able to find space forward to convert, something they weren’t able to achieve in the first half.
However the Bombers steadied with goals to Willis and James Polkinghorne to record a 17 point win and earn an Elimination Final berth against Casey Scorpions at North Port Oval on Sunday.
The Tigers have had a disappointing year under Coach Tim Clarke finishing in thirteenth place with just the five wins but can take some consolation from the season with tall forward McBean sharing the 'Frosty' Miller Medal. Essendon coach, Paul Corrigan, will be hoping for a four quarter effort from his charges next week if they are to go deeper into the finals series.
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