Blues hold off Essendon in tight AFL clash

·2-min read

Carlton have eased pressure on coach David Teague, holding off fierce rivals Essendon by 16 points in a pulsating AFL contest at the MCG.

The Blues' defensive set-up was a mess in the first half as the Bombers burst out to a 21-point lead midway through the second quarter.

But facing the prospect of slumping to 2-5, Carlton's attacking prowess suddenly came to life while clicking with their back-six.

Patrick Cripps' stunning goal midway through the final quarter took the the Blues' lead out to 26 points, before they hung on to win 19.19 (123) to 16.11 (107).

Picked as a team to rise up the ladder this year, a defeat to their old foe would have been disastrous to Carlton's hopes of playing finals for the first time since 2013.

Star midfielder Sam Walsh (33 possessions, one goal) will almost certainly poll three Brownlow votes for his output.

Blues forward Harry McKay, who struggled with illness pre-game, slammed through four second-half goals after being held to just five possessions during a quiet first two quarters.

Carlton veteran Eddie Betts rediscovered form with three goals after being limited to 2.8 in his previous four games this season.

Former Essendon flyer Adam Saad was booed every time he went near the ball after his off-season move to the Blues.

Saad's classy 21-disposal performance, which included his first goal for Carlton, gave Bombers fans plenty to be vocal about.

There was plenty of spice in the match, with a mini-melee breaking out after Carlton's second-gamer Matt Owies slotted his third goal midway through the third quarter.

"There was growth with our ball use today. I look at it from the way we played," Teague said.

"The result's great and we want that and that's what the fans want but we've got to keep winning.

"We've got a couple of games coming up where we think our best is good enough to win."

But the Blues look set to again lose luckless big man Mitch McGovern, who injured his hamstring late in the match.

Essendon looked irresistible early, led by three first-quarter goals from Anthony McDonald-Tipungwuti, to take a 14-point advantage into the first change.

Prime movers Zach Merrett, Jake Stringer and Andrew McGrath were typically industrious, but it was the encouraging performances of young guns Archie Perkins and Harrison Jones (three goals) that Bombers supporters would have liked the most.

"Carlton's effectiveness from turnovers hurt us. They scored way too much from turnovers in our forward half," Essendon coach Ben Rutten said.

"It's disappointing. We created enough opportunities but weren't quite good enough."

Essendon will travel to battle Greater Western Sydney on Saturday while the Blues have a daunting challenge against the rebounding Western Bulldogs at Marvel Stadium next Sunday.