A lot was said during the week regarding ex-Bomber Patrick Ryder facing up against his old club this round. Sadly for those baying for blood, the Bombers players showed they still had a strong, positive relationship with the ruck man and there was no sign of niggle on the ground. However there was plenty of niggle not related to Ryder in this tight and fiercely contested game. With Port Adelaide season on the line and Essendon's young brigade looking to prove they should be on the list next year, what do the numbers show from this contest?
The scores are as the trend goes with Essendon lately; plenty of shots, plenty of entries, not so good accuracy. Essendon tallied a near season high 17.14.116 to Ports impressive 20.9.129. Right there is the most telling of the games statistics. With 31 scoring shots to 29, Essendon managed a scoring efficiency of 55% to Ports 69%. To put that into perspective, had Essendon equalled Port’s scoring efficiency, their score would have been 21.10.136. It is easy to see here how in close games, simple misses can cost you. This was most evident in the 2nd quarter where Essendon scored just 2 goals and 8 behinds. Port on the other hand had 6 goals and only 2 behinds so they took an 8 point lead into half time.
So where did the scores come from? Well this certainly was the most efficient we saw the inexperienced forward line for some time. Scoring efficiency was at 63% (31 shots from 49 entries) to Ports 58% (29 shots from 50 entries), again, the downfall to the sash was the accuracy in front of the sticks. Only 35% of inside 50’s resulted in a goal while 58% of Port Adelaide’s entries brought home the goods.
For only the third time this year, Essendon won the contested ball statistics. 144 contested possessions to 126 with 7 contested marks to 5. Essendon also came very close in the tackle count, laying 67 tackles to 76 which doesn't sound great until you consider that Essendon had a bit more of the ball too. Crucially, Essendon laid 20 tackles in its forward 50 to Ports 11.
Ball movement from Essendon was evidently quicker this game, something they have clearly been working on. Of their 364 disposals 55% were kicks to Ports 54% which backs up the perception that the game from both sides was generally a bit freer flowing than some games this year.
So the biggest question coming into this round is how will the ruck department bounce back after the shellacking they received last week at the hands of Goldstein? I’m happy to report that they bounced back very well. Ruck work was mainly competed by McKernan and Daniher. While Port comfortably won the hit outs 38 to 60, Essendon was very competitive in the clearances, down by only 3 (43 to 46). Centre clearances went Port’s way 14 to 20 but the general stoppages was a small win for Essendon who won 29 to 26.
Shaun McKernan battled hard all day, winning 30 hit outs (46 for Lobbe and 10 for Ryder) but crucially around the ground you have to give the cherry to McKernan. His follow up work in the clearances yielded him 6 clearances (4 centre) to Lobbe’s 3 clearances (no centres). He finished with 15 disposals and a goal assist while Lobbe's game was more defensive with 5 tackles.