Finals start early for Bombers, Hawks - Sports News - Fanatics - the world's biggest events

Finals start early for Bombers, Hawks

By Sam Lienert 24/08/2009 06:28:24 AM Comments (0)

Essendon and Hawthorn face a virtual AFL elimination final a week early at the MCG next Saturday, after the Bombers failed in their bid to nail down a finals berth at Subiaco Oval.

Essendon, coming off a sensational win over ladder leaders St Kilda last round, could have secured eighth spot with a win over lowly Fremantle on Sunday.

But they failed to produce anything like the same intensity and trailed from the outset, the Dockers cantering to a 21.15 (141) to 13.9 (87) win.

It means that Essendon must beat the Hawks to make their first finals series since 2004.

The equation is almost the same for reigning premiers Hawthorn, who kept their chances alive with their first win in five rounds, against Richmond on Saturday night.

The only complication is that if the Hawks win narrowly, Port Adelaide have a slim chance to overtake them on percentage if they can beat North Melbourne by 100-plus points at AAMI Stadium on Saturday night.

"I suppose today there was that carrot at the end of it that if you did win you play finals footy so I guess we failed and we are disappointed in our efforts," Essendon coach Matthew Knights said.

"That's all there is to it.

"(But) we've got one more roll of the dice next week to make it happen, and that's exciting.

"We are still alive.

"We are playing last year's premiers, so if we get over the line I think we'll deserve it (a finals spot)."

While the last finals berth is still up for grabs, the premiership race also appears more wide open than at any previous stage this season after the Saints suffered their second straight defeat.

They were upstaged by North Melbourne at Etihad Stadium on Sunday, the Kangaroos kicking the opening five goals then holding on to win 10.4 (64) to 8.11 (59).

It was just North's second win in 12 rounds, as they kept St Kilda to their lowest score of the season.

The Saints' two straight losses follow wins in the first 19 rounds and suggest last weekend's loss to the Bombers cannot be written off as a late-season hiccup.

As was the case against Essendon, St Kilda were beaten by players winning more of the contested ball, an area the Saints had dominated up until the past month.

Coach Ross Lyon maintained there was no cause for panic.

"Clearly we'd like to get going a little bit, but it's a marathon," he said.

Second-placed Geelong are also flagging at the wrong time, with Friday night's loss to the Western Bulldogs their fourth in eight games after they went undefeated through the first 13 rounds.

It adds an air of unpredictability to the business end of a season that had seemed almost a two-horse race, particularly now that third-placed Collingwood have emerged as the form team.

The Magpies' runaway 13.19 (97) to 8.8 (56) win over Sydney at the MCG on Sunday was their 13th in 14 matches, most of them by comfortable margins.

The Swans' loss means they will definitely miss the finals for the first time since 2002 when Paul Roos took over as coach.

The fourth-placed Bulldogs are also in impressive form, having posted wins over Brisbane and the Cats in their past two starts.

Fifth-placed Carlton are also building nicely, with their comfortable win over Melbourne on Saturday giving them seven victories in their past eight games.

Sixth-placed Adelaide notched a convincing 74-point win over West Coast at AAMI Stadium on Saturday.

And seventh-placed Brisbane overcame an early 47-point deficit to beat Port Adelaide by 15 points at the Gabba on Saturday night, meaning they will snare a home elimination final if they beat Sydney at the SCG this Saturday night.

The Dockers' win means Melbourne are now certain to finish with the wooden spoon.

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