Paul Puopolo and Jack Gunston have fired Hawthorn back inside the AFL top four with a 38-point win over Essendon.
The Hawks engine coughed and spluttered during the first half before roaring into life as the reigning premiers claimed a 16.18 (114) to 11.10 (76) win.
Essendon brought strong effort early against their traditional rivals, shutting down the Hawks trademark fast ball movement.
After half-time the Hawks were able to break the disciplined Bombers down, kicking clear through Puopolo (4.1) and Gunston (3.4).
The win wasn’t without a cost.
James Frawley dislocated his shoulder shortly after quarter-time in his second serious injury this season against the Bombers.
But led by Liam Shiels and Sam Mitchell – and with Josh Gibson a standout in defence – the Hawks regained bragging rights over their arch-rivals after losing earlier in the year.
The Hawks’ final margin was built entirely off their second-half domination.
Essendon set up well early to frustrate the Hawks, forcing them wide and backwards at every turn.
Merrett and Shaun McKernan surged Essendon to an early lead which would have been greater if not for inaccuracy.
In a first-quarter slog, Jobe Watson and Joe Daniher both hit the post, allowing Hawthorn back into the contest.
The Hawks were reduced to opportunistic goals by Puopolo and Gunston.
Despite dominating the hit-outs, Hawthorn failed to have a centre clearance in the first half.
Gunston’s sharpshooting allowed the Hawks to sneak a one-point half-time lead but it felt like Essendon’s half.
Then it all changed.
Hawthorn’s midfield changed gears to win the contested ball and clearances, repeatedly laying siege to the Bombers goal.
A pair of high tackles allowed Puopolo to kick two goals from either pocket, with the tiny forward capping a six-goal Hawks term with a fine long-range set shot.
After ceding ownership of the corridor during the first half, the Hawks seemed to push forward with ease.
The contest was over when Luke Breust and Will Langford kicked goals inside the final term’s first three minutes.
Key forward Jarryd Roughead, kept goalless in his last seven quarters, looked a relieved man to break his streak late in the match, condemning the Bombers to a fourth-straight loss.