THIS was a comeback that might be remembered come finals time.
Greater Western Sydney had trailed by 29 points when it sparked its dramatic fightback on Friday night, gradually reducing Essendon's significant advantage before finishing with a late barrage to secure an all-important four-point win.
The GIANTS kicked six of the game's final seven goals to storm home at Metricon Stadium, retaining their spot in the top-eight with a crucial 8.11 (59) to 8.7 (55) victory. And the team they kept out of the finals positions after round 10? You guessed it, the Bombers.
Stephen Coniglio (26 disposals, one goal) and Tim Taranto (32 disposals, four clearances) were the key factors in the dramatic GWS turnaround, which displayed the type of mettle that catapulted the AFL's newest expansion side to the Grand Final last September.
But it was far from routine. Zach Merrett (33 disposals, five marks) had inspired a short-lived Essendon rout after quarter-time, with the Bombers breaking the deadlock of a goalless opening term with seven of the next eight majors to soar into a commanding lead.
However, just as the momentum appeared to be one-sided, the ledger tipped the other way. Rain arrived after the main change, and so did a rush of Giants goals.
Six straight saw the GIANTS claim an unlikely lead and, while Adam Saad's major with just seconds remaining ensured the tense finale that a seesawing contest like this one deserved, the Giants ultimately held firm. And held their spot in the top eight.
Dons forward line cops another blow
Add another incredibly unfortunate name to the growing injury list within Essendon's forward line. Just minutes into Friday night's clash, promising recruit Jacob Townsend was forced from the field after copping a brutal high hit from Heath Shaw following an unavoidable collision. Townsend was bleeding from his nose and mouth as he groggily made his way from the ground, sitting out the remainder of the contest with a concussion. Early signs would suggest he would be likely miss the club's upcoming Wednesday night clash with Gold Coast, joining fellow potential goalkickers in Joe Daniher, Orazio Fantasia, Cale Hooker, Harrison Jones, Jayden Laverde and Jake Stringer on the sidelines.
Breaking all sorts of not-so-good records
If the first quarter was frustrating to watch for supporters, it would have been just as frustrating for the neutral. With both sides playing safe, risk-free and slow footy, the AFL witnessed its lowest-scoring first quarter since Geelong and Footscray combined for just one behind in round one, 1965. In slippery conditions due to pre-match rain, neither side could kick a major until Stephen Coniglio eventually put through a set-shot in the game's 25th minute. Instead, they fumbled, scrapped, huffed and puffed to just two behinds each. Fortunately, the game soon came to life. But perhaps unfortunately for the GIANTS, as Coniglio's goal sparked a run of five consecutive Bombers majors before half-time that built the foundations for their commanding early lead.
Unusual forward options give Giants life
Who'd have thought that Heath Shaw would end Friday night as a multiple goalkicker? Meanwhile, who could have predicted that Phil Davis would finish the contest as Greater Western Sydney's main marking target? It was an unusual attacking setup, but it proved effective for Leon Cameron. Both of Shaw's goals came as a result of good fortune, with the veteran defender pushing forward and timing his moments. However, Davis was more of a planned tactical switch. He partnered Jeremy Cameron inside 50 to start the second half, as the GIANTS lacked options having fallen 22 points down at the main break. His strong mark led directly to Jeremy Finlayson's goal, but his impact waned after a knee injury that forced him from the field for several minutes just prior to three-quarter time.