ESSENDON has fought off a stirring late charge by Fremantle to open their AFL season with a six-point win at Marvel Stadium.
Debutant Sam Sturt kicked two of his three goals as the Dockers slammed through four majors in Saturday afternoon’s final term, but the Bombers grimly hung on for a 9.9 (63) to 8.9 (57) win.
In Justin Longmuir’s first game as senior coach, Fremantle started poorly but finished strongly, with Andy Brayshaw missing a late shot on goal which would have made it a point the difference with just under two minutes left on the clock.
Former Richmond premiership player Jacob Townsend booted two goals in the opening quarter as Essendon jumped out to a 19-point lead at the first break.
John Worsfold’s men led by 26 points at halftime but managed just two goals in the second half to leave the door open for the visitors.
Dylan Shiel starred for the Bombers with 35 possessions and eight clearances, while Townsend finished with three goals.
Nat Fyfe led the way for Fremantle with 26 touches and Sturt tallied three majors in a promising debut.
If there had been fans in attendance, plenty would’ve taken the opportunity to grab a drink and a pie or visit the amenities during a listless third quarter.
Both sides struggled to move the ball with any fluency, with each managing a goal apiece to have the Bombers up by 26 points heading into the final term.
Essendon’s struggles continued but Fremantle finally found a higher gear.
The Dockers pressed hard but their challenge ended with the ball deep in their attacking 50.
The sight of Hawthorn coach Alastair Clarkson watching from a corporate box at Marvel Stadium raised questions on social media given the restrictions around attendance.
But with the Hawks taking on the Dockers in Round 2, the league clarified that clubs could nominate one scout to attend a match if one of next week’s opponents was playing.
© AAP 2020
ESSENDON 5.2 7.5 8.8 9.9 (63)
FREMANTLE 2.1 3.3 4.6 8.9 (57)
Goals: Essendon: J Townsend 3 J Stringer 2 D Smith J Laverde O Fantasia W Snelling. Fremantle: S Sturt 3 R Lobb 2 M Taberner M Walters T Colyer.
Umpires: Matt Stevic, Leigh Fisher, Hayden Gavine.
Venue: Marvel Stadium.