The fierce Carlton-Essendon rivalry has extended to the AFLW, with the Blues withstanding a last-term onslaught to win their first clash by the barest of margins.
Trailing by 21 points at the last change, the Bombers kicked the only three goals of the final term before Carlton held on 5.2 (32) to 4.7 (31) on Sunday at Port Melbourne.
Essendon’s Jo Doonan had the last two shots of the game, but the first hit the post and the second also missed with 35 seconds left.
Captain Kerryn Peterson then took the kickout and after her long bomb to a crowded wing, Carlton were able to close out the match.
Blues coach Daniel Harford said his team deserved to win based on their first three quarters, but there was plenty to contemplate from the last term.
“In the end, you’re better off learning lessons with four points in the bag than not,” he said.
Blues star Darcy Vescio kicked three goals and proved the difference.
“When Darcy’s doing things, our team lifts. It was really nice to see Darc back in form today,” Harford said.
All eyes were on Essendon star Maddy Prespakis and, to a lesser extent, Georgia Gee after their high-profile moves from Carlton to the expansion club.
A Prespakis goal in the last term brought Essendon to within three points of her old club and she joined Carlton’s Mimi Hill with a game-high 21 possessions, while Gee had 10 disposals.
But Prespakis was left rueing a rudimentary error at the end of the first term.
She had a long-range set shot on goal and went to move off her line as she took the kick.
The problem was, the quarter-time siren had sounded and so Prespakis was not allowed the shot.
Indeed, for the first three terms Essendon looked every bit a first-year club as the Blues took control, extending their lead at every change.
But while Essendon conceded two goals in the third quarter, they were starting to even up clearances and contested possessions.
That set the scene for an absorbing final term, in which the Bombers had the first 13 possessions and kicked three goals in the opening few minutes to pile the pressure on Carlton.
The Blues held their nerve, with three-time All-Australian Peterson moved from her new role on the wing to her usual defensive post in the last term.
“There’s a lot to like about it. I don’t know if it’s going to be every week, but it’s nice to have up our sleeve,” Harford said of Peterson’s surprise midfield job.
Bombers coach Natalie Wood said her side would gain a lot of self-belief from their second AFLW game, which left both teams on 1-1.
“It’s fantastic for us to now have that belief, that no matter the stage of the game, we can find our way back in,” she said.
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