Bombers begin year with a bang against a determined Adelaide Crows side.
The relief on Essendon coach James Hird’s face at the sound of the final siren said it all.
His side had not only begun their AFL season in fine style with a 35-point win against the Adelaide Crows at their intimidating home ground, but he had something else to think about other than the anti-doping scandal enveloping his club.
Essendon have survived a severely disrupted pre-season which has seen them come under the microscope of the Australian Sport Anti-Doping Authority (ASADA) to run out deserving winner 18.9.117 to 11.16.82.
Despite the future of the playing group still up in the air, Hird’s men were able to put the ASADA investigation in the back of their minds as overcame an early Crows’ lead.
Jobe Watson showed no signs of a Brownlow Medal hangover as he collected 34 disposals and rounded out his night with a goal in the fourth quarter.
Ben Howlett also starred for the victors, with the 24-year-old provided a spark off the interchange bench to bagged four majors for the game.
Despite the size of the win for Essendon, it was the home side who started the better as they skipped out to a 22-point lead after just 11 minutes.
The battle between ruckman Sam Jacobs (Adelaide) and Tom Bellchambers (Essendon) loomed large as clearances started to become a key statistic, as possession tended to be bogged down across full-forward.
The Bombers finally got on the board when Brent Stanton snapped over his left-shoulder, but the Crows led 3.4.22 to 1.3.9 at the first break.
Stewart Crameri kicked the first goal for the second quarter for the Bombers, crumbing well to bring the margin back to seven, with the last 12 inside 50s going the way of Essendon.
The Crows started to show indecision at the back which opened up opportunities, allowingTom Bellchambers to put Essendon for the first time in the game after converting from 30 metres out.
Graham Johncock kicked a much-needed goal for the Crows, after surviving a video review, to stall the charge by the Bombers
As the game ebbed and flowed to correspond with both side’s kicking efficiency, Watson, who spent much of the first half in the forward half, found Michael Hurley streaming back take a crucial mark, but his effort on goal was wasted.
However, Essendon had done enough to give themselves a handy 14-point buffer at the long break, which in the context of the game was worth twice as much.
Alwyn Davey kicked the first of the second half for Essendon to take the lead out to 19 as the game began to open up and fitness levels showed.
Davey again became the hero for Essendon as he kicked his third late in the term to stave off a small comeback effort by the home side.
Adelaide’s recent home record of 12-2 looked to be under threat as they faced a 23-point deficit going into the last term, and their task became even harder when Heath Hocking kicked truly to stretch the lead to 29.
Nathan van Berlo kept the home side’s comeback hopes alive but the Crows were not been able to land a combination punch on the Bombers, having not kicked consecutive goals since the first quarter
Key Crows’ forward Taylor Walker bagged his second goal off just as many marks to keep the Crows’ pulse above critical as the lead shrunk to 18.
Walker snared his third major when he thumped it through from 60m to make the deficit just three goals, with the Crows starting to tighten the screws.
However, Bombers debutant Nick Kommer slammed the door shut on the Crows comeback as he converted with less than two minutes remaining to seal a memorable win for Essendon.