Bombers run away from tiring Suns in AFL

Murray Wenzel
Essendon remain within reach of the AFL top eight after avoiding an upset against Gold Coast

Essendon have done enough after a sloppy start to avoid an upset loss on the Gold Coast and keep their AFL finals hopes alive.

Needing a win to stay within reach of the top eight, the Bombers misfired early to trail by five at the break on Saturday night.

But the tiring Suns couldn't go with them and Essendon prevailed 13.17 (95) to 6.15 (51) as Gold Coast managed just 16 points after halftime.

Essendon were off the boil in the opening half and the Suns hungrier as they threatened to end a 10-game losing streak and sink the Bombers' season.

But the visitors shot to the lead immediately after the main break through Darcy Parish before Mitch Brown's left-foot snap edged them further ahead.

Mark Baguley (three goals) then marked strongly before kicking his second to shoot clear and allow the Bombers to cruise through the final quarter.

"(The first quarter) was pretty average but they addressed that, improved a fair bit in second quarter but really knuckled down in the second half," Essendon coach John Worsfold said.

"We have to definitely keep improving. By no means do we say we're a complete team yet."

Michael Hurley was good early for Essendon, while Dyson Heppell and Zach Merrett finished with 36 touches each and former Sun Adam Saad wasn't missed in his first visit back to the Gold Coast.

Suns workhorse Nick Holman hassled Saad to good effect in the first half and kicked three on his way to being one of the hosts' best.

Gold Coast captain Steven May (hip) struggled through the second half for the 3-13 side but coach Stuart Dew played down the injury post-game.

Bomber Devon Smith provided some welcome polish in a wasteful clash when he trapped a loose ball, ducked a tackle and curled a grubbing kick from the pocket for a champagne first-quarter goal.

The Suns then got their teeth into the game, with Aaron Young kicking the first of his two goals before Holman opened his account.

The Suns' 4.11 first half wasn't as wasteful as it read but there were enough costly misses to ensure a five-point buffer was quickly swallowed up.

"We've played really well, started well and haven't cashed in and when teams get their turn they put four goals on us," Dew said.

"That second-half performance was like a different team ran out."

Worsfold said forward Orazio Fantasia (groin) trained on Saturday morning and was likely to return next week.