Youthful Bombers stun Saints in AFL

·2-min read

Essendon have kickstarted their AFL season and left a listless St Kilda in their wake in a stunning 75-point thrashing at Marvel Stadium.

Heavy underdogs heading into Saturday's game, the Bombers ran riot for a thumping 22.11 (143) to 9.14 (68) victory.

In the process, Essendon vanquished the demons of their extraordinary second-half capitulation against Hawthorn in round one by kicking on from their 49-point halftime lead.

"That was a great opportunity for us to learn out of round one - we did some really good things for a half and then the third quarter let us down,'" coach Ben Rutten said.

"We reviewed that hard and we had the option after round one to learn and we were looking forward to putting ourselves in that position again and we got that tonight.

"Our guys, the way they attacked it - they'd prepared for this scenario and that's the growth that we're looking to see all the time."

The Bombers were coming off two losses and injuries to Dylan Shiel, Jye Caldwell and Sam Draper, while skipper Dyson Heppell was also sidelined.

But in his first game for the year Jake Stringer was at his explosive best - setting up the victory with a stunning four-goal first half, while Darcy Parish (34 disposals) and Zach Merrett (34 disposals) were superb through the midfield.

Cale Hooker snagged five goals, while Jordan Ridley (35 disposals, 10 marks) was commanding in defence and draftee Nik Cox impressed all day.

It was a horror day out for the Saints who, bar skipper Jack Steele (35 disposals), were beaten on all fronts and lost gun midfielder Jade Gresham to a season-ending achilles injury in the second quarter.

The Bombers were frenetic from the opening bounce, with relentless pressure and youthful enthusiasm coming to the fore.

Stringer started in the middle with Merrett and Parish but pushed forward to get Essendon off the mark in the opening minute.

He then set up Cox to snap Essendon's second and the Bombers kicked on from there - taking a 19-point lead into quarter-time.

The Bombers then booted six goals - including three from Stringer - to St Kilda's one in the second quarter to take a 49-point lead into the main break.

Essendon activated medical substitute Tom Cutler in the third quarter for Mason Redman (hamstring) and, while they eased off, still extended their lead to 61 points at the final change.

They added another six in the last term, condemning the Saints to a 1-2 start - while Zak Jones added to St Kilda's injury woes late when he limped off with an ankle problem.

"Defensively that's as bad as we've been," coach Brett Ratten said.

"We've leaked some goals at times but just the way that we did it - and by the end they were just kicking it in there and scoring.

"It was hard to watch."