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Bombers outlast West Coast to solidify top-four spot

3 minute read

Essendon are firmly entrenched in the AFL's top four after grinding out a 30-point win over West Coast, with Jake Stringer booting five goals.

Essendon have cashed in on the struggles of fellow AFL premiership hopefuls and strengthened their grip on a top-four spot with a 30-point win over West Coast.

The Bombers were challenged by the plucky Eagles but kicked clear late in the match, winning 19.8 (122) to 13.14 (92) at Marvel Stadium on Sunday.

Jake Stringer booted a season-high five goals and was damaging through the midfield, where Jy Caldwell (26 disposals), Sam Durham (29) and Zach Merrett (29) were all influential.

The third-placed Bombers' first win in a month put them six points clear inside the top four at the conclusion of the bye rounds, after GWS, Geelong and Port Adelaide all stumbled in round 15.

"We understand the platform that's been laid and the opportunity that presents itself," Essendon coach Brad Scott said.

"In the next month there will be some teams that are essentially playing out time and playing for the future.

"Hopefully we won't be part of that - we'll have an opportunity, but that's all it is.

"What we did today and what we did in the first half of the year guarantees nothing in the second half, and we're certainly well aware of that."

West Coast, who are in the bottom three after a fourth consecutive defeat, were within four points of Essendon late in the third quarter and had momentum.

But the Bombers kicked seven of the last nine goals of the match to pull away and cement the important result.

"I didn't think we were playing poorly; I thought West Coast were playing well," Scott said.

"We did some good things and defensively weren't right at the level we wanted to be, but I thought for the most part we held up our end of the bargain, and so did they.

"I'm happy with the resolve and the ability to keep fighting regardless of what feedback the scoreboard is giving you."

Essendon ruckman Sam Draper did well on return from injury and Andrew McGrath continued his strong form across half-back, while talented prospect Nate Caddy excited Bomber fans.

The No.10 draft pick kicked two goals after he was called into the side as a late replacement for veteran ruck Todd Goldstein (managed).

Days after signing a three-year contract extension, veteran midfielder Elliot Yeo had 20 disposals and seven clearances in a strong display for West Coast.

Liam Ryan (19 disposals, six clearances) injected some speed into the Eagles' midfield in the absence of Harley Reid, Dom Sheed and Tim Kelly, while Tom Barrass stood tall in defence with game-high tallies of 12 intercepts and five contested marks.

Jake Waterman (three), Jack Darling and Jack Petruccelle (two each) booted multiple goals, and Eagles co-captain Oscar Allen kicked 2.4 on return from a long lay-off with a knee injury.

"We played the right way," West Coast coach Adam Simpson said.

"As disappointing as it was we didn't win, some of the things that we're chasing we were pretty competitive at with a different look.

"Some things worked really well and some things didn't, but the Bombers were just too good in the end.

"We couldn't get the ball off them at stages ... but we had 56 inside-50s, did well around the clearances and contested possession we held our own.

"We had the same amount of shots, so there's some stuff there we'll take that we like."

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