Fremantle are the real deal in season 2022, with a “first class” 48-point win over Essendon on the back of a career-high seven goals to Matt Taberner.
The Dockers blew the game open in the third term, kicking six goals to none to set up the 16.11 (107) to 8.11 (59) win at Marvel Stadium.
The 48-point win is Fremantle’s biggest against Essendon away from home, and their fifth highest victory at Docklands in club history.
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In contrast, Essendon were “embarrassed” at home and booed by their crowd at three quarter time.
They conceded 10 straight goals as Fremantle “feasted” on an Essendon defense that simply could not stop the run.
In the third term alone, the Dockers scored 6.3 from 16 inside 50 entries in a “very, very impressive performance”.
By the final term, Fremantle had “put the cue in the rack” as Essendon added some late respectability to the scoreboard to finish with three of the last four goals of the game.
The Bombers suffered an early blow in their bid to record a second win of the season, losing Andrew Phillips to injury just minutes into the match against Fremantle.
Essendon activated their medical sub Tom Cutler as a result of Phillips’ injured hamstring, but quickly found themselves two goals down.
Docker Michael Frederick kicked a ripping goal from the boundary to opening the scoring, before big Matt Taberner slotted one from brilliant David Mundy pass.
“Essendon just can’t defend ball movement at the moment — and Freo’s two goals have come from the defensive half position,” Brownlow Medallist Gerard Healy told Fox Footy.
Young Nik Martin was able to capitalize on some repeat Bombers’ forward pressure to get one back before the first break.
“Good forward half pressure has given them a number of opportunities,” Fox Footy’s Gerard Healy said.
Andrew Brayshaw coughed up a set shot when his clearing kick found Cutler inside forward 50.
But Cutler just couldn’t convert, as the Bombers finished the term with 1.4.
An inaccurate Essendon failed to make Fremantle pay in the second term, with both sides guilty of “wasted opportunities”.
Essendon could have taken the lead into the second half after a costly on-the-siren 50m penalty was paid to Nik Cox.
But he was unable to convert as the Bombers kicked 5.8 in the opening half.
Cox had earlier given Essendon their biggest lead of the match early in the second term when he kicked his first of the day after a brilliant transition from defence.
The ball cleared a contest on the wing before Devon Smith got it to Jye Caldwell, who went by hands to Dylan Shiel before Caldwell got it back and hit up Cox.
“They left a couple of Bomber players at the back of the pack and the Dockers will rue that when they have a look at that at half time,” Fox Footy’s Gerard Healy said.
“You’ve got to have the sweeper covered.
“The balls coming out, the Dockers have got three blokes go up and everyone leaves Devon Smith on the ground.”
Dockers duo Alex Pearce and Hayden Young had gone up, as Jordan Clark came over the top and failed to kill the contest.
“If you are going to launch and leave your man to spoil the football, you have to make contact,” Fox Footy analyst Nick Dal Santo said.
“He pays the full whack as a result of missing it.”
But Fremantle were able to answer minutes later through key forward Matt Taberner.
After half time, Fremantle had “blown the game” with a stunning six-goal to none third term, on the back of four goals to key forward Matt Taberner.
Taking a three-point lead into half time, the Dockers came out firing in the third after coach Justin Longmuir pleaded for more “ascendancy” around the ball.
Recruit Will Brodie responded brilliantly by winning the ball on the inside, before the likes of Andrew Brayshaw and Sean Darcy got the ball moving forward for Fremantle.
“They just haven’t given the ball back – they’ve won it from the middle,” Fox Footy’s Gerard Healy.
In a remarkable stat, Fremantle managed 4.1 directly from free kicks as ill-discipline cost the Bombers dearly.
Unable to hit the scoreboard at their end, Taberner was able to kick two of his four goals for the quarter from free kicks – one coming for umpire dissent off-the-ball in a “lucky” win for the Dockers.
But it wasn’t luck behind their massive 40-point three-quarter-time lead as Fremanlte’s midfielders simply outworked the Bombers.
“They’ve blown this game apart,” commentator Anthony Hudson said.
When Matt Taberner added his seventh goal for the match in the final term, the Dockers put the “cue in the rack”.
The lead blew out to 59 points before Essendon finally found some space inside forward 50.
Alex Pearce was outstanding on Bombers forward Peter Wright, keeping him goalless from his seven disposals.
The loss leaves Essendon 1-4, while Fremantle jumped into second behind reigning premiers Melbourne with their fourth win of the season.
THE 3-2-1 (WHAT WE LEARNED) — Andrew Jackson
3. ESSENDON’S ‘ALARMING’ TREND PROVES COSTLY
For so long, Essendon looked set to restrict its opposition to under 14 goals for the first time this season.
But early in its defeat to Fremantle on Sunday night there were warning signs and by the third quarter, it quickly became apparent that the Bombers had not addressed their fatal flaw.
And the biggest issue is that it is something Essendon should have seen coming.
“This is the problem we pointed out before the game,” Brownlow Medallist Gerard Healy said in commentary for Fox Footy.
“The Bombers just can’t defend ball movement at this stage. Freo’s two goals have both come off that defensive half position.”
He pointed to an early goal for David Mundy, where the 36-year-old was left wide open and immediately made the Bombers pay, placing the blame directly on the Essendon midfield.
“The defender can’t be responsible for that, that is impossible, it has got to be stopped midway,” he said.
“Mundy is the middle of the ground, Acres goes wide then the ball comes back inside. Mundy tees off with no pressure. The pressure has to be coming from the forward-half to prevent those goals.”
“This a worrying and alarming sign for the Bombers to allow anybody, let alone David Mundy, one of the best kicks inside the forward-50 to have that much space,” triple All-Australian Nick dal Santo said.
“That’s so difficult to defend.”
It improved in the second quarter but reared its ugly head again in the third, as a 39-2 difference saw the Dockers surge ahead to an unassailable lead.
“It’s purely the numbers in the screen and the workrate of the Fremantle mids… the use of the corridor on turnovers… six goals, three from 16 inside-50s is simply devastating,” Dal Santo said.
“From a defensive perspective of the Bombers, it is the mids of the Bombers refusing to locate or find an opponent on turnover.
2. TABERNER ANSWERS BIG CHALLENGE IN CAREER NIGHT
It shaped as Fremantle’s greatest test yet after a relatively soft start to the season and by halftime, the contest was well and truly in the balance.
That had Dal Santo declaring there would be a simple factor to differentiate the two sides in the final two quarters.
“Both teams have had more than enough opportunities… it is who uses the football the best in forward-50,” he said.
“There were plenty of wasted opportunities and missed shots at goal. It is who can be efficient and effective that gets the result.”
That team was the Dockers… and more specifically their leading goalkicker in 2021 – Matt Taberner.
The key forward was at his accurate best on Sunday, kicking a career-high seven goals in a masterclass that helped steer Fremantle to a dominant victory.
Taberner’s previous career-high haul was a five-goal effort against Brisbane in 2016, with his seven on Sunday taking his career total against Essendon to 25 in 10 games.
“That’s seven goals for Taberner. He’s had a day out,” Dal Santo said.
“It’s been a 10-year build for Taberner but he’s certainly dangerous at the moment.
“He’s been building towards this,” Healy added.
“He was in and out of the side, had issues with his goal-kicking, issues with his marking. This is a highly professional performance. He’s kicked them around the corner on his right, nailed them when he’s had to, worked really hard.”
1. SHINING LIGHT FOR BOMBERS AS MARTIN CONTINUES STUNNING RISE
It was a horror night in the end for the Bombers but if there was one ray of hope, it was the performance of young gun Nic Martin.
Martin featured at half-forward and on the wing in pre-season practice games and was immediately snapped up by Essendon.
He failed to pick up a contract with the West Coast Eagles after training with them the pre-season prior and while there is still plenty of growth in him, the 21-year-old already looks an exciting prospect.
Martin finished the first half with two goals from seven disposals and two marks. While he came up with a costly mistake early in the third quarter, Healy was full of praise.
“You just can’t help but admire the swooping nature of this young bloke who has come from absolutely nowhere to have an impact on the competition,” Healy said.
“Good pressure, impacted on the handball. This kid keeps on impressing.”
It continues an impressive start to the season for the rising star, who kicked five goals from 27 disposal and 10 marks on debut in a loss to Geelong.