Hawks down Dons in thrilling AFL comeback

·2-min read

Hawthorn coach Alastair Clarkson has lauded his players' will to win after they staged a remarkable second-half comeback to upstage old rivals Essendon in a thrilling one-point victory at Marvel Stadium.

Both sides had quarters in which they kicked eight goals to one on Saturday night in a game of huge momentum swings.

The Bombers broke the game open in the second term and led by 40 points before the Hawks stormed back into the contest in the third.

They traded blows again in the final quarter before Tim O'Brien marked deep in attack and kicked the match-winning goal with 90 seconds left on the clock.

Dylan Moore kicked three goals and debutant Connor Downie two in the Hawks' 14.8 (92) to 13.13 (91) win.

Hawthorn had experienced midfielders Tom Mitchell (39 disposals), Jaeger O'Meara (30) and Liam Shiels (19), plus ruckmen Ben McEvoy and Jonathon Ceglar, to thank for leading the charge after halftime as they clawed their way back into the contest.

"In the end, Essendon are stiff to lose and we were lucky to win," Clarkson said.

"Close games like that are just a flip of the coin when it's a tale of two halves, in essence.

"But we're really proud of our boys that despite a horrible second quarter they were able to bounce in the second half and get themselves back into the game."

Clarkson has conceded that Hawthorn are unlikely to challenge for silverware any time soon as they regenerate their team, and they fielded nine players aged 22 or younger against the Bombers.

Moore, Downie and Harry Morrison were lively at times in the front half, Will Day impressed and Changkuoth Jiath took the game on with dash out of defence.

"I think both clubs probably showed their fans that there's some excitement there with some young players," Clarkson said.

Essendon debutants Harrison Jones and Nik Cox gave positive performances and off-season recruits Jye Caldwell, Nick Hind and Peter Wright impressed in their first outings for their new club.

Dyson Heppell did well in a new role across halfback and Andrew McGrath and Zach Merrett won plenty of the ball, but were part of a midfield group that got overrun after halftime.

"The pleasing thing from our point of view, and why our players are so disappointed, is we showed some really strong footy in the second half," Bombers coach Ben Rutten said.

"The second quarter in particular is what we've been training and the guys are really disappointed because they know what they're capable of but they went away from it in that second half."