Giants respond to coach’s challenge, ‘difficult week’ as Bombers thwarted in ‘spicy’ clash: 3-2-1
The GWS Giants have responded to caretaker coach Mark McVeigh’s brutal criticism with an emphatic 27-point win over Essendon, 14.12 (96) to 10.9 (69).
The Giants had a different look about them from the first bounce, but the Bombers were equally up for the challenge until McVeigh’s side kicked away in the second half.
It saw the Giants snap a four-game losing streak and improve to 6-14, while Essendon fell to 7-13.
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QUATER-BY-QUARTER MATCH REPORT
As confirmed on Friday, Giants gun Tim Taranto was a late out for Lachie Ash, while Tanner Bruhn (GWS) and Massimo D‘Ambrosio (Essendon) were named the medical subs.
Both clubs got involved in a pre-game scuffle including a heated exchange between Jake Stringer and Stephen Coniglio. Coniglio responded in the best way possible, kicking the opening goal as the Giants threw the first punch.
It led to both teams again fighting afterwards as Stringer, who was very much in the thick of it, gave away a free kick Harry Himmelberg for the Giants’ second goal in a fiery start.
“There’s definitely a bit of feeling as you can see,” Saints great Nick Dal Santo said on Fox Footy.
Western Bulldogs legend Brad Johnson said of the Bombers: “They need to settle themselves down, the leadership around Essendon need to stand up and calm the farm.”
The Bombers then settled into the game in a heavily-contested opening quarter, while Harry Perryman appeared to have a run-with role on Zach Merrett.
But the Giants continued to play with ferocity in a great response caretaker coach Mark McVeigh’s scathing criticism last week including a brilliant snap goal to Josh Kelly.
Essendon responded later in the term with back-to-back majors to pull it back to a five-point deficit.
The Giants had their chances late in the term to get further ahead on the scoreboard but failed to convert their opportunities.
McVeigh’s side took a two-point lead into the first break, 2.3 (23) to 3.3 (21).
Both teams continued to fight tooth and nail in the second quarter in an exciting battle.
James Peatling came from the ground in the hands of trainers after a huge collision with Mason Redman, with the Giants forward assessed for a concussion.
Peatling was subsequently subbed out of the game for Tanner Bruhn.
GWS kicked the first two goals of the term through Jesse Hogan and Toby Greene to go ahead by 15 points.
The home side got on top of the contest in the second quarter, while Bruhn had an immediate impact upon coming on with a goal to extend its lead.
Just at the Bomber did in the first term, they responded late with consecutive goals to gather some momentum approaching half-time.
GWS led by two points at the main break, 7.7 (49) to 7.5 (47).
Essendon got off to the perfect start in the second half with consecutive goals through Matt Guelfi and Ben Hobbs.
“He loves the big stage,” Fox Footy called Kelli Underwood said of Hobbs, while Dal Santo noted the rookie has “already become a rock solid half forward.”
Toby Greene gave away a costly 50m penalty midway through he quarter, but Darcy Parish couldn’t make them pay with the set shot.
It was an arm wrestle for most of the third term, but the Giants regained the lead after Jesse Hogan took a big contested mark inside 50 and booted his second goal of the day.
Greene stripped James Stewart of the ball deep in the Giants’ forward line and kicked an opportune goal, although the Fox Footy commentators questioned if Greene ran over the mark.
Callan Ward added another goal for the Giants to extend their lead, with the hosts up 13 points at three-quarter time, 11.9 (75) to 9.8 (62).
It was all GWS in the fourth term as the club put its foot down, booting the first three goals (and seven in a row overall) to assert its dominance in the contest.
It included Jesse Hogan kicking his fourth goal in a strong display from the key forward.
Meanwhile Guelfi kicked his career-high fourth goal at the end of the ground as arguably the Bombers’ best player on the day.
3. GIANTS RESPOND TO ‘DIFFICULT WEEK’ IN EMPHATIC PERFORMANCE
It’s fair to say Giants caretaker coach Mark McVeigh got the response he wanted after calling out his players after last weekend’s Sydney derby loss and saying they “checked out.”
GWS had a different look about them, coming out with ferocity and intensity not seen in recent weeks to help the club snap a four-game losing streak.
“From the opening bounce they were razor sharp, the work ethic was there and they were on,” Fox Footy commentator Kelli Underwood said.
Western Bulldogs great Brad Johnson added: “Their pressure around the ball has been excellent ... you’ve got the midfield setting the tone, everyone buys into pressure.”
The stats really told the story, with GWS winning inside 50s (53-38), contested possessions (127-115), clearances (36-30) and even the tackle count (54-47) as well as tackles inside 50 (16-1).
And a big onus goes on the leaders, most notably Lachie Whitfield (30 disposals, one goal) and Stephen Coniglio (20 touches, seven tackles, one goal), while Jesse Hogan had an equal season-high four goals.
Coniglio admitted post-match the team wanted to respond in their last home game at Giants Stadium after a “difficult week”.
“Very proud of the boys today … we wanted to make amends for the display we served up last week,” he told Fox Footy.
“This week we really tried to angle on that and what we can get from this week and I thought we did that really well today.
“It was all about ‘we,’ sacrificing your role for the team, and I thought a number of guys did that really well.”
2. BOMBERS BALL MOVEMENT, STAR MIDFIELDER THWARTED
Essendon has been the number one ranked side in the competition since the bye in ball movement.
But the Bombers couldn’t get their natural game going against the Giants, overwhelmed by the pressure and sturdy defence of McVeigh’s side.
Essendon finished with just 38 inside 50s and one tackle inside 50 – its worst return in both areas this season.
“Essendon just can’t move the ball at all,” Lions great Alastair Lunch noted at half-time on Fox Footy.
Bombers coach Ben Rutten acknowledged that his side wasn’t competitive enough in the contest in the first half — which was the key to it struggling in other areas.
“We got stuck a little bit in our defensive 50 that quarter, but the Giants’ pressure around the contest is pretty good, so we need to handle that first and foremost,” he said at half-time.
It included Zach Merrett getting blanketed by Harry Perryman in a run-with role, with the star Bomber held to 19 disposals – his second lowest return of the season – to go with just one mark and one tackle.
Seeing Perryman go to Merrett was no surprise after he’d been in scintillating form in recent weeks, including averaging 37.3 disposals over his last three games, while his fellow on-ballers were also below their best form.
Merrett and the Bombers will look to bounce back against Port Adelaide next week.
1. PLENTY OF ‘SPICE’ AND ‘PASSION’ IN HEATED CLASH
A pre-game scuffle set the tone for what was a fiery clash at Giants Stadium.
Jake Stringer really set things off when he shoved Harry Himmelberg to the ground after GWS’ first goal to ensure there was a bit of extra spice in every contest thereafter.
Fox Footy commentators noted how it’d been a physical contest despite both sides ruled out of the finals race.
“It sort of spilled over consistently throughout the game, a lot of spice in this, a lot of passion and a lot of pressure from both teams,” Lions great Alastair Lynch said.
Saints great Nick Dal Santo highlighted how the Giants would’ve been more on edge after being challenged by McVeigh, while all clubs play with “pride” regardless of their ladder position.
“It’s a combative sport and there’s pride within. We saw the Giants got called out, they needed to respond,” he said.
“It doesn’t matter if you’re in or out (of the finals race), it’s just what you do.”
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