Bombers fly up to second spot, Kangaroos still winless

Shayne Hope |

Peter Wright starred with four goals as Essendon reached second spot by beating North Melbourne.
Peter Wright starred with four goals as Essendon reached second spot by beating North Melbourne.

One of Brad Scott’s most critical challenges is keeping his Essendon players focused as expectation and excitement builds around their surge into AFL premiership contention.

A 40-point win over bottom side North Melbourne on Sunday marked the Bombers’ sixth straight game without defeat, sending them soaring into second spot.

It is the first time they have finished a round in the top two this far into a season since 2013, with Essendon (7-2-1) sitting six points behind leaders Sydney.

The hot run of form has sparked Bombers supporters’ hopes the infamous finals win drought, which dates back to 2004, will come to an end this September.

“We want our fans to have pride in their team and our players take that responsibility really seriously,” Scott said after the 16.10 (106) to 10.6 (66) win over the Kangaroos at Marvel Stadium.

“So I don’t feel a need, or a want even, to quell the excitement of our fans. I’ve just got to keep our players focused.”

Matt Guelfi.
Matt Guelfi was a constant threat for the Bombers, kicking three goals in his 100th game. (Daniel Pockett/AAP PHOTOS)

Essendon will start heavy favourites when they take on injury-hit Richmond in the annual ‘Dreamtime’ clash on Saturday night.

They could be bolstered by the return of prolific midfielder Darcy Parish, who was a late withdrawal against North with calf tightness, and Nik Cox, who missed with illness.

Peter Wright kicked a personal season-high four goals opposed to Kangaroos debutant Wil Dawson and Matt Guelfi celebrated his 100-game milestone with three majors.

Jake Stringer added a couple as the Bombers posted their third triple-figure tally of the season despite leading goalkicker Kyle Langford being limited just one major by Aidan Corr.

Jye Caldwell (25 disposals, nine clearances), Nic Martin (27 touches), Archie Perkins (22) and Zach Merrett (21) all had a say for Essendon and experienced acquisitions Todd Goldstein and Ben McKay did well in their first game against their former club.

Tristan Xerri and Todd Goldstein.
Tristan Xerri (L) and Todd Goldstein (R) contest a bounce up at Marvel Stadium. (Daniel Pockett/AAP PHOTOS)

Harry Sheezel (32 touches) and Zac Fisher (31) won plenty of ball as Luke Davies-Uniacke (27 disposals, seven clearances) and Tom Powell (26, nine) worked hard in the midfield for North Melbourne, who were clear winners in the clearance tally (41-29).

They were well behind in the inside-50 count (64-40), however, and were not in the contest after halftime.

Essendon wrested scoreboard control with eight goals to two in what Kangaroos coach Alastair Clarkson described as a third-quarter “avalanche”.

The lead ballooned to 45 points by the final change before the Roos stemmed the flow in the last term.

“Essendon were just so much better than us at being able to get composure when they needed to and change direction of the footy,” Clarkson said.

“That was the difference in the two sides over the course of the game.

“We were really, really competitive but we’re disappointed that the game got away from us in that third quarter.”

Davies-Uniacke was North’s only multiple goalkicker, with two, and they lost Miller Bergman to a hamstring injury.

The Kangaroos (0-10) remain last on the ladder after an 11th straight loss to Essendon in a barren run that spans seven seasons.