A five-goal-to-two opening quarter by Essendon has proven costly for Sandringham, with the Bombers flying to a 13.12 (90) to 15.14 (104) victory at Wilson Storage Trevor Barker Beach Oval, despite a resilient fightback by the Zebras.
Despite a sublime running goal to open the scoring from Jack Peris, the Zebras were locked into their defensive half for large portions of the first quarter as key forwards James Stewart and Kaine Baldwin caused headaches for the home defence.
On what was a glorious day for football, the match threatened to become a shootout by half-time before both sides endured a much more tough, contested second half.
The Zebras repeatedly chipped away at the margin throughout the afternoon, getting it back to under a goal. Still, Essendon continued to answer back in an even last three quarters of football.
Tom Campbell impressed once again in the ruck, amassing 19 disposals to go along with 37 hit-outs and nine clearances, working exceptionally well with Marcus Windhager (31 disposals, 12 clearances, two goals), who looked like the man to drag the Zebras over the line.
Windhager’s excellent performance was punctuated with his burst from stoppages, especially in the final term which yielded both of his majors.
VFL MATCH CENTRE: View all news, stats and videos from Round 13
Darragh Joyce (24 disposals, 11, rebound-50s 10 marks, one goal) was superb in defence, regularly cutting out the Bombers’ attack with his intercept possessions. The 25-year-old also bobbed up with a crucial goal in the third term courtesy of a 50-metre penalty.
Joyce – who operated as the Zebras' sole key position defender last week – was accompanied strongly by the returning Jarrod Lienert (27 disposals, six marks) and Tom Highmore (19 disposals, six marks), with the trio combining for 29 of their side's 47 rebound-50s.
Leo Connolly (23 disposals) and Tyson Milne (23 disposals) were busy around the ball all afternoon off half-back, while youngster Jack Peris (one goal, 10 disposals, 10 tackles) was impressive with both his outside and inside play.
Cooper Sharman continued his goalkicking form with three goals and constantly presented as a marking target up forward for Sandringham, leaving speedster Dean Kent (one goal, 16 disposals) to provide toughness and grit around the contest.
Matthew Allison and Mason Wood also bobbed up with a goal apiece, while Max Heath battled throughout the contest on a tough day for the side.
Sandringham will now travel to Sydney next week to take on the Swans at 1:05 pm (AEST) next Saturday, with Jake Batchelor’s side hoping to cement their spot in the top-eight.
SANDRINGHAM 2.4 7.6 10.9 13.12 (90)
ESSENDON 5.8 10.9 13.11 15.14 (104)
Sandringham: Sharman 3, Windhager 2, Allison, Haidon, Hodgson, Joyce, Kent, Peris, Watson, Wood
Essendon: Baldwin, Stewart 3, Menzie, Voss 2, Bernacki, Eyre, Hird, McDonagh, Rasinac
Sandringham: Windhager, Campbell, Lienert, Joyce, Highmore, Milne, Connolly
Essendon: Cutler, Bernacki, Rasinac, Baldwin, Atley, Bryan, Langford