Bombers defy odds with inspired win over Hawks as Lions take down depleted Eagles

Peter Wright has kicked six goals to help Essendon pull off a dramatic 27-point win over Hawthorn, breathing life back into its season.

Also on Saturday night, the Brisbane Lions defeated an understrength West Coast Eagles outfit by 75 points at the Gabba, while Geelong, Richmond and Gold Coast won the earlier matches.

Ravaged by illness and forced into five late changes, the Bombers produced an eight-goal final term to run away with a 16.12 (108) to 11.15 (81) win on Saturday night at Docklands.

Jordan Ridley, Matt Guelfi, Jake Kelly, Sam Durham and Alec Waterman were all picked at the starting 22 but were too unwell to play.

And the magnitude of Essendon’s desperation was highlighted when they called on Devon Smith as a replacement just days after ruling him out for two weeks because of a knee injury.

The Bombers trailed by as much as 25 points during the third quarter but fought back and finished full of running to claim their second win of the year after a tough 1-6 start.

Nic Martin provided a spark in the final term as he kicked one goal and set up another for Wright to get Essendon back within a kick.

Dylan Shiel missed a gilt-edged chance to put them in front and Mason Redman thought he had done so from long range until Wright was called for holding an opponent on the goal line.

The Bombers eventually took the lead when Zach Merrett accidentally kicked the ball through for a goal when trying to pick it up off the ground.

Wright then galloped forward after winning a contest on the wing and bounced through his fifth major to whip the red-and-black crowd into a frenzy.

Heavily criticised for not having enough impact with their possessions, Merrett (28 disposals and six clearances) and Darcy Parish (32 disposals and six clearances) were outstanding for the Bombers.

Redman (27 disposals) starred at half-back and Sam Draper fought back from a tough start to split his ruck duel with Max Lynch.

Jai Newcombe (28 disposals and five clearances) was brilliant in the first half for Hawthorn as Max Lynch, Jacob Koschitzke and Jack Gunston kicked two goals each to help establish what looked to be a match-winning lead midway through the third quarter.

But the Bombers were irresistible in the final term, piling on 8.2 to 1.2 to overrun their rivals.

Lions score comfortable win over Eagles

A Brisbane Lons AFL player marks the ball ahead of West Coast Eagles opponent.
Brisbane’s Cameron Rayner (left) marks while under pressure from West Coast’s Shannon Hurn.(Getty Images: Bradley Kanaris)

An undermanned West Coast scrapped valiantly and Brisbane lost another tall forward but the Lions still did as expected in their comprehensive win.

Daniel McStay’s nasty ankle roll in the first quarter soured the host’s 16.9 (105) to 4.6 (30) win, as the Eagles fronted up despite mass absences due to injury and COVID-19.

McStay joined fellow tall targets Joe Daniher (shoulder) and Eric Hipwood on the injury list, although Hipwood could return from his ACL tear next week.

It was the Lions’ (7-1) smaller men who instead got to work.

Charlie Cameron (four goals) continued his fine form, Hugh McCluggage (four goals and 26 disposals) impressed and Cam Rayner (two goals) also grew in confidence.

Lachie Neale (30 disposals and 10 clearances) controlled traffic again, while offsider McCluggage was everywhere as his push for All-Australian honors stepped up a gear in the percentage-boosting win.

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