Rowan Marshall is edging closer towards a senior return following a successful hit-out for Sandringham over the weekend.

The 25-year-old performed strongly at Tullamarine for the better part of three quarters, spending the bulk of his time in the ruck to guide the Zebras towards an 8.10 (58) to 13.9 (87) win over Essendon. 

Marshall has spent the past month on the sidelines with a foot injury, but returned in time for Sandringham's third and final practice match of the pre-season. 

The ruckman was particularly effective around stoppages and in the air during the opening quarter, joining Sam Alabakis in propelling the Zebras to a five-goal lead at the first break.

Essendon trimmed back the margin during the second term with the breeze on their side, but Darragh Joyce again led the defensive charge through his intercept marking and marshalling of the back six.

The Irishman was flanked well by Tom Highmore in the key defensive post, while Leo Connolly floated further up the ground to help kick the Saints inside-50. 

Sandringham's midfield ultimately won out, with Luke Dunstan and Jack Bytel – who was best on ground for the Zebras – putting the foot down in the second half to confirm the 29-point victory.

An injury to Sandringham's Chris Carey forced Matthew Allison into manning the key forward role in the second half, with the young Saint getting the better of his bigger-bodied opponents to bag his first pair of majors at VFL level. 

Sandringham will open its season against Richmond on April 16.

ESSENDON 1.0  3.4  5.4. 8.10  (58)
SANDRINGHAM  6.5  7.8. 12.9 13.9  (87)

Ross 2, Dalmau 2, Lok 2, Allison 2, Alabakis, Bayne, Carey, Dunstan, Bailey