Peter Wright scored six goals to help Essendon to a dramatic 27-point victory over Hawthorn, reviving their season.
Also on Saturday night, the Brisbane Lions beat an under-strength West Coast Eagles side by 75 points at the Gabba, while Geelong, Richmond and Gold Coast won previous games.
Ravaged by illness and forced into five late substitutions, the Bombers produced a final eight-goal run to run away with a 16.12 (108)-11.15 (81) victory Saturday night at Docklands.
Jordan Ridley, Matt Guelfi, Jake Kelly, Sam Durham and Alec Waterman were all chosen from the starting 22 but were too ill to play.
And the extent of Essendon’s desperation was on full display when they brought in Devon Smith as a replacement just days after he was ruled out for two weeks with a knee injury.
The Bombers trailed as much as 25 points in the third quarter but fought back and finished full steam ahead to claim their second win of the year after a rocky 1-6 start.
Nic Martin provided a spark in the last term by scoring a goal and setting up another for Wright to recover Essendon in a kick.
Dylan Shiel missed a golden chance to put them in front and Mason Redman thought he had done it from long range until Wright was called off for holding an opponent on the goal line.
The Bombers finally took the lead when Zach Merrett accidentally threw the ball for a goal trying to pick it up off the floor.
Wright then galloped forward after winning a contest on the wing and bounced through his major fifth to whip the red and black crowd into a frenzy.
Heavily criticized for not making enough of an impact with their possessions, Merrett (28 kills and six clearances) and Darcy Parish (32 kills and six clearances) have been standouts for the Bombers.
Redman (27 eliminations) played halfback and Sam Draper fought back after a rocky start to share his ruck duel with Max Lynch.
Jai Newcombe (28 eliminations and five clearances) was brilliant in the first half for Hawthorn as Max Lynch, Jacob Koschitzke and Jack Gunston scored two goals each to help establish what looked like a game-winning lead midway through the third quarter .
But the Bombers have been unstoppable in the last term, going 8.2-1.2 to overtake their rivals.
Lions earn comfortable win over Eagles
An understaffed West Coast valiantly gave up and Brisbane lost another great striker, but the Lions still performed as expected in their comprehensive win.
Daniel McStay’s nasty ankle roll in the first quarter spoiled the host’s 16.9 (105) 4.6 (30) victory as the Eagles coped despite massive absences through injury and to COVID-19.
McStay joined other top targets Joe Daniher (shoulder) and Eric Hipwood on the injured list, although Hipwood could return from his ACL tear next week.
It was the smallest men of the Lions (7-1) who got to work instead.
Charlie Cameron (four goals) continued his fine form, Hugh McCluggage (four goals and 26 eliminations) impressed and Cam Rayner (two goals) also gained confidence.
Lachie Neale (30 eliminations and 10 clearances) controlled traffic again, while offside McCluggage was all over the place as his push for All-Australian honors accelerated in the percentage win.
With just 20 players available on the AFL roster and manager Adam Simpson isolated due to COVID-19, the Eagles were still going to face an uphill battle in Brisbane.
MVP and first player Jake Florenca gave his best with 19 cessions and four clearances.
Cameron stars in Cats win
A powerful first quarter from Jeremy Cameron haunted his former club and put Geelong’s inconsistent season back on track.
Cameron scored three goals in the quarter against Greater Western Sydney and finished with five, helping the Cats lead from start to finish and win 12.15 (88) to 4.11 (35) at Manuka Oval.
He got help from Tyson Stengle, who scored three elegant goals, while it all started in the middle with an impressive display from Mitch Duncan, who had 16 eliminations in the first term.
The victory made the Cats 5-3 for the season, while the result left the Giants virtually eliminated from the final race at 2-6.
Leading by 20 points at halftime, Stengle and Cameron both scored in two minutes in the third term to break up the GWS fight.
Cameron made five in the final quarter as Geelong blew the margin.
Duncan sliced the Giants at will and had 33 touches, while Patrick Dangerfield impressed on his return to the side with 28.
Accuracy in front of goal certainly didn’t help GWS, who finished with 4.11.
Isaac Cumming was best for the Giants after finding 29 takedowns and 12 50 rebounds, with 25 of those possession kicks.
Dusty helps the tigers take care of the pies
Dustin Martin’s highly anticipated return to the AFL was a success, but teammate Tom Lynch stole the show in Richmond’s 27-point win over Collingwood.
Martin had 23 possessions in his first game since the first round, when he took a step away from football to deal with personal issues, as the Tigers improved to 4-4 to return to the top eight.
Norm Smith’s three-time medalist was harassed by each of his Richmond teammates when he scored his first goal early in the third quarter.
Martin’s 293rd career major extended the Tigers’ lead to 30 points, putting them on course for a comfortable 17.11 (113) to 12.14 (86) triumph in front of 64,481 fans at the MCG.
After scoring his second goal midway through the final quarter, the Richmond faithful began chanting “Dusty” in approval of the return of one of the AFL’s modern greats.
He played primarily as a striker, working in tandem with Lynch as the former Gold Coast co-captain produced one of the best games of his 12-year career.
The Tigers forward had an unforgettable first half, scoring five goals, picking up eight points and collecting 18 possessions to be the most influential player on the field.
Lynch had a career-high 25 touches and finished the game with 6.1, confirming his seven-goal run against the ill-fated West Coast last week.
Richmond youngster Rhyan Mansell could catch the attention of the game review officer after he appeared to hit Collingwood dynamo Jack Ginnivan late in the third quarter.
Ginnivan, who the Collingwood hierarchy are said to have spoken to after a drinking session following his Anzac Day heroics, was calm enough but still managed to score three goals and frustrate the opposition and their supporters.
The Tigers forward line was shooting, but their defense was equally impressive with Noah Balta starring in a performance that will make it difficult for veteran rookie Robbie Tarrant to force his way back into the team.
In a rare highlight for the Magpies, Will Hoskin-Elliott brought down a brand of the year contender late in the game.
Richmond will be aiming for a third straight win when they face Hawthorn at the MCG next Saturday, while Collingwood’s next mission will be a clash with the Western Bulldogs on Friday night.
Suns stun swans in Sydney
Gold Coast overcame a fightback to topple Sydney from high-flying in a 14-point AFL win at SCG.
The Suns were the better team for much of the game but had to weather a tense final quarter before triumphing 10.15 (75) to 8.13 (61) on Saturday afternoon.
Izak Rankine helped stir up anger by showing glimpses of the brilliance he often produced early in his short career.
The Suns small forward scored two important goals, having disappointed many in his previous four appearances, while also showing he can win his own ball when needed with nine of his 13 eliminations contested.
Matt Rowell (15 possessions contested, seven clearances), Touk Miller (11, 5) and David Swallow (9, 6) dominated around saves while Brayden Fiorini (30 disposals) and Brandon Ellis (26) were also among the best for the Suns.
While the Suns won the clearances 36-29, they were also able to gain ground easily with the Swans giving four 50m penalties for leaving the mark too early, helping the visitors go past 50 inside the count 55-41.
The Suns (3-5) will also be cheered on by Rory Thompson in his first AFL game in 1,379 days after being sidelined with serious knee injuries since Round 19, 2018.
The key defender spent much of the game against Logan McDonald and helped limit the emerging forward to one goal and nine eliminations in a thrilling comeback.
Paddy McCartin was one of Sydney’s best, especially when the Suns were ahead in the first half, impressing in defense on his return after missing a game under concussion protocols.
McCartin finished the game with 19 eliminations and 10 marks as he often intercepted the ball under 50.
Nick Blakey (25 eliminations) provided his usual offensive run out of defense, but Swans leaders in the middle, including Callum Mills (20) and Luke Parker (16), failed to make their usual impact as their team fell to 5. -3 season highs.
The Suns improved on their impressive record at SCG, now winning three of their last four games against the Swans at the venue, and looked comfortable early on as they held a 17-point lead at the main break.
They had the opportunity to withdraw the contest from Sydney early in the third term, but inaccuracy in front of goal could only translate to 1.5 as the scores were tied on the final substitution.
A goal early in Levi Casboult’s last term restored the Suns’ lead, but the Swans stayed within range until the veteran key forward kicked in his second to put the contest out of reach.
After consecutive defeats at the SCG. the Swans will return to the venue next Saturday night to take on Essendon, while the Suns take on an in-form Fremantle at Carrara Stadium.
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