Bombers cruise past Bulldogs
Centre-half forward Michael Hurley gave another dominant display with a five-goal haul as Essendon coasted to an 84-point win over the Western Bulldogs in their AFL round-14 clash on Saturday night.
Hurley kicked a career-best six goals last week in a win over Fremantle and was in excellent touch against the Bulldogs, gathering 22 possessions and pulling down 12 marks.
The fourth-placed Bombers won 21.14 (140) to 8.8 (56) at Etihad Stadium after racing to a 39-point lead at quarter-time.
Essendon improved their record to 10-3 and notched their highest score and biggest winning margin of the season, while the Bulldogs suffered their eighth loss from 13 matches.
Brownlow Medal contender Jobe Watson was another star for the Bombers with 30 possessions and three goals.
Kyle Reimers also kicked three goals for Essendon while ruckman Will Minson scored three majors for the Bulldogs.
The Bulldogs had only six less inside-50s than the Bombers but poor ball use was fatal and they struggled to find a regular marking target up forward.
Hurley, Stewart Crameri and Patrick Ryder each booted two goals for the Bombers in a seven-goal barrage in the opening term as the home side claimed a 39-point lead at quarter-time.
After scoring only one goal in the first term, the Bulldogs added just two more in the second quarter although they held the Bombers to five goals as the home side went into halftime with a match-winning 56-point advantage, 12.7 (79) to 3.5 (23).
Watson helped set up the win for his side with 14 disposals in the first quarter. The Bulldogs switched tagger Liam Picken onto Watson who was restricted to three touches in the second term.
In a cruel blow for the Bulldogs, creative halfback Rob Murphy was subbed off with a hamstring injury at halftime.
The Bulldogs fought hard, scoring three of the first four goals of the second half, before goals to Watson and Hurley allowed the Bombers to lead by 57 points at three-quarter time.
Crameri was struggling with a lower-leg injury and was subbed off in the third term.
And Hurley, who was wearing a black protective glove on his left hand, gulped down some painkilling tablets at three-quarter time before booting a fifth goal in the final term.
Bulldogs' midfielder Ryan Griffen limped off with a leg injury in the final term as the Bombers kicked another six goals to the visitors' two.
Essendon face St Kilda at Etihad Stadium next Saturday night while the Bulldogs travel to Perth to play Fremantle the following day.
Essendon coach James Hird praised Hurley who had a sore wrist after it was trampled during last week's game against Fremantle.
"There's no breaks there. He played under a fair bit of duress this week," Hird said.
Western Bulldogs coach Brendan McCartney said Murphy was likely to be out for three weeks with a hamstring injury.
The first-year coach said he was happy with the way his men fought back after a poor first term, but their intensity dropped away again in conceding six goals to two in the last quarter.
"That (effort) disappeared again in the last quarter. I reckon that was the smelliest bit of the day," he said.
"There might be some panic externally with this. There's none internally.
"We're filthy with how we're playing though. We're really disappointed with what we're dishing up."