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Essendon stun Suns in upset AFL victory

AAP logoAAP 14/08/2016 By Ben McKay

Essendon have given their long-suffering fans a slice of late-season reward, downing Gold Coast by six points to end a club-record losing streak.

The Bombers were full of effort and heart at Etihad Stadium on Sunday afternoon, running Gold Coast ragged to finish 11.9 (75) to 9.15 (69) winners - their first AFL victory in 18 matches.

David Zaharakis (40 disposals) and stand-in captain Zach Merrett (38 disposals) were mighty for the Bombers, with Orazio Fantasia's three goals proving vital.

But Essendon wasn't home until the final siren.

After butchering several late opportunities, a goal by Gold Coast captain Tom Lynch left the Suns six points behind with 14 seconds to play.

There would be no last-gasp effort as John Worsfold's side completed an improbable comeback win.

"For the players and for our fans, it's a big day," Worsfold said.

"It's a great reward for the players. We're still miles off where we want to be but we did enough."

There were seven lead changes on an afternoon when two injury-hit sides needed to improvise their way to a result.

The Suns' tall timber of Lynch, Sam Day and Peter Wright stole the momentum in the third term, each kicking goals to have the Suns 13 points ahead.

It looked as though Rodney Eade's side would kick clear but Essendon stood up, with Worsfold telling his side to "stay brave" during the last break.

Five straight goals either side of three-quarter time was enough in a low-scoring affair, giving the 16,622 crowd the first chance to sing the club song since April.

Jake Long, son of club legend Michael Long, made a promising debut with two goal assists and 13 touches, keeping pace with the contest.

For the Suns, Touk Miller (39 disposals) was one of the few who could hold their head high.

The loss will matter little to the Suns in the short term, having already missed out on a finals campaign.

But the manner of the capitulation is likely to raise plenty of questions about the future of the playing group.

Eade said the loss wasn't an embarrassment but a disappointment.

"We just didn't bring the required effort, and that's what we've built our performances on in the last eight weeks," he said.

"We looked heavy-legged. We always knew at some stage towards the end of the season we might run out of run, but I don't think that was the case today.

"I just think we didn't bring the required effort."

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