Round Twelve Match Report

Box Hill have fallen short of a strong Essendon outfit in front of a vocal City Oval on Sunday afternoon.

The battle was befitting of sides placed fourth and fifth, with victory an important step toward securing the coveted double chance; and for Box Hill, marking the beginning of a challenging run of football against a spate of top eight sides in a hotly contested race toward the pointy end of the season.

The Hawks were off to a promising start when James Worpel streamed from the opening centre bounce to find Jackson Ross lace-out, and while the goal didn’t materialise, fate would have it that Worpel would influence the first of the match. Relentless pressure from the small forward, just minutes later, causing the ball to spill to the clean-finishing Mitch Lewis, who converted the snap.

The Bombers responded with a handful of forward fifty entries of their own, although their attacks were to be thwarted by steadfast backmen, David Mirra and Mitch O’Donnell.

The backline became a launchpad for counterattack, as Will Hams got busy against his former club, and Teia Milesprovided a touch of class on the rebound, with the pair racking up 7 and 8 first-term disposals, respectively.

A piece of individual brilliance brought about the next, and as it would eventually stand, only other major of the term, asMitch Lewis raked in a brilliant one-handed grab whilstrunning full-tilt toward the boundary line. The club’s leading goal kicker went back and routinely slotted the set shot.

Essendon lifted their tackling pressure which resulted in repeat entries, however it was Kaiden Brand who read the play best and added to his mounting tally of intercept marks, including a particularly brave effort running back with the flight.

Alongside Kurt Heatherley, the pair weathered the storm as the Bombers would move to lead the inside fifty count by the conclusion of term, yet remain goalless at the first break.

However, this wasn’t to last.

The second term saw the Dons begin to capitalise, with a Jordan Houlahan set shot opening their account for the day;followed by an impressive long-range effort from defender Michael Hartley. When Travis Colyer utilised his speed to split from the pack and finish on the run, Essendon hit the front.

Continuous use of the centre corridor placed the Box Hill defensive six under siege, however this was not in the absence of endeavour, typified by the efforts of Mackenzie Doreian who latched onto a fend off with a vice-like tackle, and followed with a desperately lunging smother in the same passage of play.

Skipper Andrew Moore continued to lead from the front, with 16 disposals to his name; while Cousins had 14 of his own, on his way to what would be a best afield performance.

Despite best efforts, a pair of goals to Jayden Laverde and Aaron Heppell capped the quarter, to see the red and black take a three-goal lead heading into the major break; with the Hawks in need of a regroup having completed the term without troubling the scorers.

And regroup they did, as the drought was broken at the commencement of the third, with Hams bursting from the stoppage to deliver a long forward fifty entry to Jackson Ross, who ran around the man on the mark to finish neatly.

Thereafter, chances went begging as both Teia Miles and Dallas Willsmore threatened to score on the run to no avail, and an Andrew Moore set shot swayed left.

However, when the ball rebounded the opposite way, the backline continued to find answers. A Mirra spoil followed by a Harrison Jones smother saved a certain goal; while O’Donnell’s pressure was unrelenting, with the mid-turned-back finishing with an enormous 12 tackles for the day.

Lewis continued to threaten up forward and maintained his accurate goal kicking after being granted a deep free kick,putting his third on the board to cut the margin to less than a major.

Essendon looked certain to hit back when Laverde marked just outside the goal square, but the Bomber didn’t account for the desperation of Mirra, with the former skipper managing agoal-saving fingertip on the snap.

Heatherley added an impressive high-flying mark to his growing report card; and the Hawks swooped to transition quickly. Pittonet made a strong contest on the wing, Hanrahan linked with Cousins, and Ross found himself on the end of the passage as suddenly, it was all square at City Oval.

It would have stayed that way heading into the final term had it not been for a Houlahan set shot after the siren, which was always narrow. With the slightest of margins, a crowd growing in voice and a finals-like intensity on the field, the game was poised for a blockbuster finish.

The final term began in perfect fashion for the Hawks, as Conor Nash found space to dash through the middle before heading long toward Lewis in a one-on-one contest. Lewis battled valiantly to keep to the ball in play, before spotting up Brendan Whitecross, whose experience shone, as the veterankept a level head to kick truly on the angle.

The Hawks led for the first time since the ten-minute mark of the second term.

But alas, this would be for the last time.

A Worpel behind was followed by a running goal from Essendon big man, Matthew Leuenberger, who found himself in the unfamiliar role of rover, but converted all the same.

Both side’s defensive units worked overtime to deny conversion from forward fifty entries before pressure from Box Hill eventually caused the turnover, with Moore on the end of an errant Essendon disposal. With the opportunity to put the home side back in front, the set shot faded right.

At the other end, an opportunistic snap from Essendon’s leading goal-kicker and thus far scoreless, Daniel Younan, handed the Bombers the lead deep into the last.

All was not lost as an Ollie Hanrahan goal off the back of a crunching tackle by Cousins on the wing, was to breathe life into the Hawks, with a single point the margin and the end result on a knife’s edge.

It was an unfortunate turn of events which saw the Bombers extend the lead back out to seven points, as Miles found himself on the receiving end of a huge hit as a result of fearless attack on the football, uncompromisingly putting his body on the line. As luck would have it, the ball spilled to Essendon’s Nick Hind, who made the most of his chance to slot the running goal.

Leuenberger would have the final say, converting a difficult set shot from the pocket to put the exclamation point on a 14-point Essendon victory.

Box Hill 2.3 2.3 5.7 7.9 51
Essendon 0.0 5.3 5.8 9.11 65

Lewis 3, Ross 2, Hanrahan, Whitecross

Disposals: A. Moore 29, Cousins 25, Miles 24, Lovell 22, Mirra 20

Best: Cousins, Moore, Miles, Mirra, Lewis, Hanrahan

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