Gold Coast 2.3 7.5 12.7 13.10 (88)
Essendon 5.6 7.10 10.12 15.15 (105)
Essendon has outlasted Gold Coast in a fatigue-filled contest at Metricon Stadium, victorious by 17 points in Dustin Fletcher’s 350th game.
Both teams held the lead throughout the third and early in the fourth, but despite Gary Ablett’s truly best efforts, Essendon’s fitness and experience prevailed and they were able to run out the game with more strength and composure, but not a great deal more.
Essendon started the game quickly, bursting out to a lead as large as 27 points late in the first quarter, but the Suns clawed their way back.
They hit the lead through a good goal from Jarrod Harbrow 24 minutes into the second quarter and from there, it was a sloppy, goal-for-goal tussle.
The little master Ablett may well have nine Brownlow votes from three rounds after being best on ground by a country mile, with 45 disposals, 27 of them contested, seven tackles, thirteen clearances, nine inside 50s, three rebound 50s and two goals, but it wasn’t enough to drag the Suns over the line.
With his performance he became the first player in the modern AFL era to record three consecutive performances of 40 or more disposals, but Ablett may start wondering what exactly it is he has to do to get the Suns a victory.
Jared Brennan, Nathan Bock, Karmichael Hunt, David Swallow and Dion Prestia all played well, especially the latter two in the last quarter, but Essendon’s midfield contained a more balanced and effective contribution.
Jobe Watson amassed two goals and eight clearances amongst 25 disposals, but Angus Monfries led the way with 28 possessions of his own while Brent Stanton and Ben Howlett provided a valuable addition to the Bombers’ midfield.
Dustin Fletcher also relished in the backline in his milestone match, showing the calmness and composure with 20 highly effective disposals and six rebound 50s but also the desperation late in the game to save it.
Stewart Crameri led the goalkicking for Essendon, kicking 4.2 for the night. Michael Hurley kicked two, as did Paddy Ryder, including an inhuman snap from 45 metres out on the boundary in the last quarter, and Leroy Jetta whose second was a mid-air soccer to seal the game late.
Ablett, Bock and Aaron Hall all kicked two each for Gold Coast.
3 – Gary Ablett (GC)
2 – Jobe Watson (Ess)
1 – Stewart Crameri (Ess)
Gold Coast: Ablett 2, Bock 2, Hall 2, Brennan, Shaw, Harbrow, Matera, Rischitelli, Caddy, Russell
Essendon: Crameri 4, Watson 2, Jetta 2, Ryder 2, Hurley 2, Davey, Bellchambers, Reimers
Gold Coast: Ablett, Swallow, Brennan, Bock
Essendon: Watson, Crameri, Monfries, Howlett, Fletcher, Ryder
Essendon: Dempsey (hamstring)
Gold Coast: Nil
Umpires: Ritchie, Stewart, Grun
Official crowd: 17,069 at Metricon Stadium