BOX Hill Hawks cemented a top four spot and dented Essendon’s late season surge with a dominant 72-point win.
Essendon emphatically answered the pregame questions marks lingering over its finals credentials, but just perhaps not in the positive manner they would have liked, as Michael Collins reports.
Joe Daniher, who presented strongly all day up forward, fired Essendon’s only meaningful shot two minutes into the first term with a typical key forward mark and goal. But Box Hill’s defence quickly settled and made Essendon look mostly disorganised in its forward half.
At the other end, the Hawks had a plethora of goal scoring options with Dalton Graham and Tim O’Brien slotting a combined seven goals in addition to Sam Cust’s two goals.
While the match was not always a showcase of finesse, Box Hill’s intensity and manic pressure around the contest was the day’s constant theme.
Hawks’ rucking pair, Luke Lowden and Jonathon Ceglar, convincingly nullified the experienced David Hille. Yet, it was across halfback where Box Hill really overwhelmed a flat-looking Essendon.
Kyle Cheney (24 disposals) was the Hawks’ main architect across halfback as he provided offensive drive and a defensive lockdown on the dangerous Stewart Crameri. But Cheney wasn’t alone. Sam Iles was prominent in many of Box Hill’s linking play and Derik Wanganeen’s burst of speed added another dynamic level as he looks to be more settled since moving down back.
Although Essendon endured an old fashioned drubbing, there were some positives. Elliot Kavanagh held his own in his tagging job on Liam Shiels and Lachlan Dalgleish never stopped trying.
While the Bombers failed to penetrate the Hawks’ defence at one end, Box Hill took advantage of Essendon’s lack of discipline in the first half by bagging multiple goals from free kicks.
The Hawks’ poor goal kicking (6.13) afforded Essendon some hope as they trailed by 38 points at the main break, despite only kicking the solitary goal.
Yet, the Hawks’ tackling pressure did not relent in the third quarter and nor did Cheney’s ability to dictate play down back as Essendon’s twin towers, Daniher and Crameri, were starved of opportunities in their own attacking 50.
Despite the goal kicking yips still plaguing the Hawks, they extended their lead to a telling 10-goal margin at three-quarter time.
Essendon doubled its score in the final term but still failed to minimise the damage as Box Hill won every quarter.
The Hawks’ fine blend of talented youth and experienced leadership makes them dangerous premiership contenders.
Essendon’s season now comes down to a thrilling ‘win or go home’ battle against Frankston on Saturday while Box Hill can continue their good form in the lead up to the finals as they clash with Coburg.