Gold Coast have blown a huge chance to press their case for a maiden AFL finals appearance, suffering a horror 48-point defeat at the hands of Essendon.
The Bombers prevailed 14.19 (103) to 8.7 (55) at Marvel Stadium on Sunday to continue their late-season resurgence with a fourth win in five games.
But while Ben Rutten’s side are out of the finals picture, the Suns were left to rue a missed opportunity in a bitterly disappointing performance with so much on the line.
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An opportunity arrived on Saturday for the group of teams chasing eighth spot when incumbents Richmond were upset by last-placed North Melbourne.
Gold Coast (8-8) failed to take advantage and now sit one win behind the Tigers, Western Bulldogs and St Kilda (all 9-7) ahead of a huge clash with Queensland rivals Brisbane in round 19.
The Suns’ percentage was 108.9 but dropped to 104.7 as a result of their thumping from Essendon.
“There was an opportunity there, the door got opened and we didn’t walk through it, and that’s the most disappointing thing,” Gold Coast coach Stuart Dew said.
“We lost connection and for periods of the game it looked like they had one or two extra (players) on the ground the way they opened us up.
“That hasn’t happened to us for a long time.
“They played a good style of footy and beat us inside and out … and that stings because it’s not like we delivered our best football here today.”
The Bombers’ triumph was built on superior intensity around the ball and a hard-running midfield, which set up ample opportunities to kick a winning score.
Zach Merrett (36 disposals), Mason Redman (34) and Dylan Shiel (29) racked up touches and Jake Stringer kicked four goals, while former Suns forward Peter Wright, Harrison Jones, Nic Martin and Sam Draper kicked two goals each.
Cult hero Draper provided the highlight with a running goal-of-the-year contender direct from a centre bounce during the final quarter, shrugging off two opponents as he galloped towards goal.
The ruckman’s finish on the outside of his right boot brought the house down.
Rutten hailed Draper’s flair and importance to his teammates but it was the Bombers’ continued growth as a team that most impressed their coach as they ran out four strong quarters.
“It was a good bit of maturity, continuing to play our way and being strong around the contest,” Rutten said.
Gold Coast duo Noah Anderson (24 disposals, seven clearances) and Touk Miller (28 disposals, seven tackles, nine clearances) were in the thick of the action but the Suns had few clear winners.
They were thrashed in contested possession (140-118) and uncontested possession (265-164), and beaten in tackles (53-47).
“If you want a blueprint on how not to play the game it’s get beaten in contested, beaten in uncontested and beaten in tackles,” Dew said.
“It’s not great reading.”
© AAP 2022