Hawthorn dent Bombers' AFL finals hopes

Roger Vaughan
Hawthorn have kept pace with the AFL top four, beating Essendon by four points at the MCG

Alastair Clarkson has warned Hawthorn must lift, saying their standard in the four-point AFL win over Essendon won't cut it as the finals loom.

Saturday's pulsating 16.11 (107) to 16.7 (103) win at the MCG was a dagger through the heart of their arch-rivals.

It was billed as a mini-elimination final and the Bombers will now need a miracle to make the top eight.

But after his side fell behind twice in the first half, the Hawks coach warned his team has plenty to improve with three rounds left.

"The last two weeks (wins over Carlton and Fremantle) haven't really given us a good gauge, but today did," Clarkson said

"Despite the win, it gave us gauge that if we don't play a bit better than that then we are going to find a loss pretty soon.

"We could have easily lost that game."

Hawthorn face another mini-final next week against Geelong.

It reminds Clarkson of the mooted 17-5 concept for the fixture, where the last five rounds are played among teams near each other on the ladder.

"We're playing little finals, which is great for the exposure of our players," Clarkson said.

"We haven't been there for a couple of years, so we're keen to give a young players a taste for it.

"Who knows, once you get there, where it takes you, but we still have some work to do to get there."

Hawthorn kicked a wasteful 3.6 in the last quarter and Essendon roared back from 21 points down.

Travis Colyer kicked a booming goal with seconds left to give the Bombers one last chance, but James Worpel's goal in the previous minute proved the sealer.

Jack Gunston starred for Hawthorn with five goals, while Ben Stratton and Tom Mitchell also had massive games.

Clarkson heaped praise on Stratton, who took seven intercept marks.

"Every high-quality defence has a player like him," Clarkson said.

"It's probably good he's getting a little bit of credit, because he's been doing that for us for 10 years ... he's a ripper."

Bombers coach John Worsfold bemoaned their contested play, with Hawthorn winning contested possessions 159-130.

While the Hawks are a young team, they still boast several veterans of their four-premiership era and that experience was crucial.

"Hawthorn, in terms of their experience and experienced players, is what we're aiming to build," Worsfold said.

"We're not there yet, but we're not far off."