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Match report: R7

R7: Roughy lights it up with great goal Jarryd Roughead slid this goal through during the second quarter to keep the Hawks in touch.

Essendon found trouble all day – mostly because of its penchant for handball – but nothing's been more problematic for the Bombers this year than the premiership quarter.

Not once in 2018 had Essendon won a third term entering the round, an ugly theme that added another chapter at the MCG on Saturday.

Hawthorn trailed the Bombers by seven points at half-time, but piled on six goals to none in the third quarter to firmly snatch control on its way to a 13.12 (90) to 10.7 (67) victory.

They are the competition's only side not to win a third quarter, and to add insult to injury the sixth of those Hawks' goals, from Tom Mitchell, shouldn't have counted, with the siren having already sounded.

Hawthorn's mid-match purple patch included 10 of the game's 11 goals between the first and final terms, after Essendon led by 16 points at the 23-minute mark.

Alastair Clarkson's men reclaimed their top four spot and improved to 5-2 to strengthen their bid to return to the finals after a one-year absence.

James Sicily's return from his second suspension of the season was a magnificent one and he was the most influential player on the field.

He bounced back to his intercepting best in defence and his skills were typically excellent – even when others faltered around him, on both sides.

Captain Jarryd Roughead was also a strong performer, kick-starting his afternoon with a superb dribbling goal early in the second quarter after a goalless fortnight, and finishing with three.

Tom Mitchell won plenty of possessions again, while Isaac Smith warmed to the task following a quiet start and slotted the sealing goal after Essendon cut the deficit to 22 points in the last term.

The Bombers slumped to a 2-5 record on the season and must find a way to arrest their woes coming out of the main break, with a collective negative points differential of 136 in third quarters.

Coach John Worsfold addressed the issue with reporters mid-week, suggesting he may tweak some of their half-time habits in response, but whatever changed didn't work.

The Bombers favoured handball to escape trouble and instead often found it because of that.

By the time they did kick, it was often under intense pressure, including several long-range no-lookers from their defensive 50 that quickly came straight back.

Even Tom Bellchambers, a first-half force, took one of his six contested marks before the main break then elected to handball backwards – rather than put Essendon inside 50 – and turned the ball over.

But Bellchambers was clearly the Bombers' best player, with skipper Dyson Heppell and Michael Hurley toiling hard as well.

MEDICAL ROOM
Essendon:
 Adam Saad had some treatment in the third quarter, but returned to the field. 

Hawthorn: The Hawks lost Will Langford (back spasms) in the warm-up and Ricky Henderson (gastro) was also a late withdrawal, with Brendan Whitecross and James Cousins taking their respective places. Jarryd Roughead copped a knee to the back in the last quarteer, but played out the game,

NEXT UP

Hawthorn has a six-day turnaround for Friday night's big clash with Sydney at the MCG that looms as a major one for both clubs. The Bombers also return to the 'G next Saturday afternoon to face traditional rival Carlton.

More to come

ESSENDON                 4.2 5.5 5.6 10.7 (67)
HAWTHORN               2.4 4.4 10.7 13.12 (90)

GOALS

Essendon: Baguley, Stewart, Ambrose, Parish, Mutch, Daniher, Bellchambers, Heppell, McDonald-Tipungwuti, Hooker
Hawthorn: Roughead 3, Smith 2, O'Meara, Whitecross, Gunston, Breust, Sicily, Mitchell, Impey, Shiels

BEST 

Essendon: Bellchambers, Hooker, Hurley, Stewart
Hawthorn: Sicily, Roughead, O'Meara, Smith, Mitchell

INJURIES 

Essendon: Nil
Hawthorn: Henderson out (illness) replaced in selected side by Cousins, Langford out (back spasms) replaced in selected side by Whitecross

Reports: Nil

Umpires: Dalgleish, Mollison, Wallace

Official crowd: 53,018 at the MCG

The views in this article are those of the author and not necessarily those of the AFL or its clubs