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Melbourne hold off brave Bombers in AFL

Reigning AFL premiers Melbourne have withstood multiple challenges from Essendon, powering away late to record a 29-point victory.

The lead changed five times during Friday night’s contest at the MCG, and the Bombers got within 11 points with six minutes remaining, but the Demons’ premiership power won out.

Peter Wright missed a shot for his fifth major that would have reduced the margin to six points, before Ed Langdon slotted a miraculous goal-of-the-year contender less than a minute later to end Essendon’s resistance.

Melbourne flexed their muscle in familiar fashion by kicking the last three goals to win 14.15 (99) to 10.10 (70).

They have won 10 straight games with their most recent defeat in round 19 last year.

Despite having improved in both games since their round-one capitulation against Geelong, it hasn’t been enough for the Bombers to avoid going 0-3 for the first time since 1967.

After averaging 39 possessions in his previous three games, Norm Smith medallist Christian Petracca was held to 21 touches as Essendon midfielder Andrew McGrath ran with the Melbourne superstar for extended periods.

But if Petracca doesn’t dominate then Clayton Oliver usually will.

Oliver, the three-time Demons best-and-fairest, gathered 38 possessions in a display that should result in the umpires giving him three Brownlow Medal votes.

Sam Weideman starred with 4.3 up forward in his first game since round 13 of 2021, after stepping in to replace premiership full-forward Ben Brown who was forced into isolation on Friday.

Weideman could have finished with two or three more after missing a number of easy shots in the first half but made up for it by nailing a goal backed up against the boundary line late in third quarter.

Tex Wanganeen, who was the unused medical sub on AFL debut last week, started the Bombers’ comeback early in the third quarter.

After hitting the post with a set-shot in the second quarter, Wanganeen snapped one through off his left foot for his first career goal in his debut to spark celebrations from his legendary father Gavin in the stands.

The Demons have just six days to prepare for an away clash with Port Adelaide on Thursday night, while the Bombers will host Adelaide at Marvel Stadium next weekend.

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