CARLTON 4.4 4.7 5.12 11.13 (79)
ESSENDON 3.6 8.11 12.17 15.19 (109)
Essendon have come back from a disappointing performance in round 3 in the best way possible, comfortably accounting for premiership fancies Carlton in front of 73,000 fans at the MCG.
For the past thirty years Essendon and Carlton clashes have been unpredictable, played like a true rivalry with the underdog often getting up.
After Carlton’s successive routs of Richmond, Brisbane Lions and 2011 grand finalists Collingwood, they were backed in to steamroll the Bombers in similar fashion.
Essendon had other ideas.
Carlton suffered a similar fate to their round 3 opponents in Collingwood, losing important players Andrew Carazzo (in the first minute) and Jeremy Laidler early. Laidler received treatment and played on, but he appeared to struggle throughout the game.
The Blues didn’t let this phase them in the first, taking a four-point lead going into the break.
Their body language and attack on the ball dropped in the second and Essendon relished the opportunity, booting five goals while restricting Carlton to just three behinds to take a 28-point buffer into the main-break.
Brent Stanton (36 disposals and a goal) and Jobe Watson (31 possessions, 13 clearances) were absolutely outstanding in the midfield, leaving the previously unstoppable Carlton midfield looking overwhelmed.
Michael Hurley was subbed off with hamstring soreness after half-time, but it did little to slow the Bombers.
The Blues attempted to claw into the margin but faltered in front of goal in the third, booting one goal five behinds for the term. Essendon were also inaccurate but managed to slam home four for the term giving them an almost insurmountable 47-point lead at the final break.
If the third quarter is the premiership quarter, one would have to wonder how the Blues went about it considering the stakes.
The Dons then switched on cruise control in the final term, looking completely at ease. The Blues kicked six for the quarter but the gap was simply too large.
After such a powerhouse start to the season for Carlton, the effort and attack was simply not up to scratch. They started complacent and ended desperate, but they were no match for an impressive Essendon display throughout.
“I don’t think anyone in Australia gave us a chance today” James Hird said.
Eddie Betts was in scintillating form in the first three rounds but was completely missing for the first half, with direct opponent Kyle Hardingham holding him to just one disposal.
He kicked four goals in the second half but it was too little, too late. The other two cogs in the ‘mosquito fleet’ machine fared little better; Jeff Garlett was held to one goal and Chris Yarran only managed 12 disposals off half-back.
In stark contrast, much maligned Essendon small forward Alwyn Davey kicked three goals while Leroy Jetta played a defensive forward role with gusto, laying eight tackles.
The usual suspects in Chris Judd (24 disposals, one goal) and Marc Murphy (29 disposals, one goal) did their bit but were no match for Stanton and Watson in the midfield.
Brock McLean battled after being subbed on for Carazzo, but exerted nowhere near the influence that ‘Carrots’ had as a run-with man in the previous games of the season.
Lachie Henderson, so good last weekend, was merely part of a poor Carlton defensive unit, with Essendon’s only real big target for the four quarters Stewart Crameri finishing with five goals.
He could easily have kicked seven or eight if he was more accurate, also contributing six behinds.
It wasn’t all bad for the Blues as the underrated Kade Simpson (33 disposals, nine inside 50s) and Heath Scotland (28 disposals, four inside 50s and three rebounds) impressive.
Carlton coach Brett Ratten refused to acknowledge the early injuries as an excuse for such a poor performance, which was completely correct. Carlton had bursts but often appeared lifeless and today showed that simply won’t be good enough when they’re up against sides who want it more on the way to September.
Carlton: Betts 4, Robinson, Garlett, Murphy, McLean, Gibbs, Judd, Hampson
Essendon: Crameri 5, Davey 3, Melksham, Stanton, Ryder, Zaharakis, Hurley, Fletcher, Monfries
Carlton: Simpson, Scotland, Judd, Murphy, Waite
Essendon: Watson, Stanton, Crameri, Hardingham, Davey, Bellchambers, Hooker, Hibberd
Official crowd: 73,172 at the MCG.