Two factors were decisive in Collingwoods canter to victory. The first was that the Pies handled and moved the ball with greater surety.
The second was that their defensive actions completely snuffed the Bombers. The Anzac Medal winner, Adam Treloar, would say that Collingwoods impetus came from their defence.
Essendon managed just seven goals, and only four after quarter-time. Often, the Dons players would have possession behind the ball, look up and then pause, seemingly without any viable option. Eventually, there would be a turnover.
This confusion was evident when Essendons veteran Brendon Goddard twice remonstrated heatedly with teammate David Zaharakis in a dialogue that reflected the Bombers lack of cohesion. Goddard was understood to be upset with Zaharakis not looking for teammates – not lowering his eyes – when either having a shot or kicking forward.
Goddard then had a third animated exchange at the three-quarter-time huddle with Joe Daniher. On this occasion, Goddard was asking Daniher – who is leader of the forwards – why the forwards werent manning up when the Pies had the ball. Daniher replied that the midfielders had to do the same. John Worsfold would defend Goddards right to make these comments afterwards.
The Pies did not play with particular flair. They simply made better decisions with the ball with much greater frequency and – in what is a credit to Buckley and his revamped coaching panel – had a method that the Dons couldnt score against.
No player personified Collingwood's superior composure more than its skipper Scott Pendlebury, who hitherto this season had found himself eclipsed as a prime mover by Steele Sidebottom and Brodie Grundy.
In stark contrast to many Bombers, who either rushed their disposals or were too ponderous, Pendlebury made excellent decisions, either by foot or hand.
The skipper was well supported by Sidebottom, the most influential player afield in the first quarter, and Treloar, who eclipsed Pendlebury and Sidebottom for both possession tallies and in the voting for the Anzac Medal.
Any of that trio might have won the medal, but it was Treloars stronger finish that gave him the nod of the judges.
Jordan De Goey also thrived as forward/midfielder.
Treloar also provided a rare highlight in a game that contained relatively few for the non-Collingwood purists, when he booted a long, running goal in the second quarter, as he and Jack Crisp ran down the field together, exchanging handballs, as if they were breaking from the peloton.
Collingwood owned the midfield, despite the anomaly of Essendon having a statistical – as opposed to actual – advantage in the clearances (34-25). The Don clearances were not really clear.
Elsewhere, the ageing war horse Lynden Dunn managed the improbable feat of restricting Joe Daniher, albeit Daniher was undone by his woeful kicking as much as by the discarded Demon defender.
For the Dons, Zach Merrett was effective early, but faded, with his team. Darcy Parish worked hard. Zaharakis won the ball, without bursting into space in a threatening manner.
Collingwoods ascendancy was gradual and became more and more pronounced from time on in the first quarter.
By half-time, while the margin was just 17 points, the game had taken a form that meant it was difficult to see the Dons challenging the Pies.
By the final quarter, the Dons were exhausted – their losses having told – and Collingwoods Mason Cox was taking full advantage, plucking a couple of towering pack marks and booting his second goal. The most exciting moments, though, were provided by youngster Jaidyn Stephenson, whose acceleration – and willing to use it – stood out.
Sidebottom booted two superb goals in the first quarter, one from a clever soccer in which he out-manoeuvred his opponent, in a similar manner to Jordan De Goeys opening goal, an athletic soccer volley with an even higher degree of difficulty.
The game finished with a flat feeling, in defiance of the fact – surprising as it is – that Collingwood have won three on the trot.
On Sunday, well learn more about them, when they confront Richmond, another team that, like the Magpies, had been 13th and subject to an intensive review a year earlier.
COLLINGWOOD 4.4 6.9 8.14 14.17 (101)
ESSENDON 3.3 4.4 4.8 7.10 (52)
Goals: Collingwood: Sidebottom 3, Treloar 2, Stephenson 2, Cox 2, Hoskin-Elliott 2, Reid, de Goey, Phillips. Essendon: Stringer 2, McDonald-Tipungwuti, Hooker, Heppell, Daniher, Stewart
Best: Collingwood: Pendlebury, Treloar, Sidebottom, De Goey, Dunn, Varcoe. Essendon: Z. Merrett, Parish, Zaharakis, Hurley
Umpires: Chamberlain, Hosking, Deboy
Official Crowd: 91,440 at MCG.
Scott Pendlebury (Collingwood) 8
Adam Treloar (Collingwood) 8
Steele Sidebottom (Collingwood) 7
Jordan De Goey (Collingwood) 6
Lynden Dunn (Collingwood) 6
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