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Pies lock up fourth spot

Krak's back Andrew Krakouer fires up the Pies on his AFL return
Collingwood has booked a qualifying final clash with Hawthorn next week, beating Essendon by 32 points at the MCG on Saturday night.

The 14.20 (104) to 10.12 (72) win secured fourth spot and a vital double chance for the Magpies, and ended the Bombers' season with a seventh straight loss.

In further good news for the black and white army, key forward Travis Cloke made a timely return to form, taking an equal career-best 16 marks (including seven contested) and booting five goals.

Cloke was particularly good in the first half, completely out-muscling his direct opponent Cale Hooker.

Bombers coach James Hird moved Michael Hurley to the backline after half-time, and the versatile big man quelled Cloke's influence to some extent.

Magpies midfielder Dane Swan was at his best, collecting a game-high 42 disposals in a dominant display.

It was the Brownlow Medallist's sixth 40-plus possession game this season, and his second against Essendon, after he won the ANZAC Medal with 42 touches in round five.

Dayne Beams, Scott Pendlebury and Dale Thomas also found plenty of the ball for the winners, and small forward Alex Fasolo was creative up forward.

For the Bombers, second-gamer Nick O'Brien and David Zaharakis each booted two goals, but they struggled to find a tall target up forward.

Midfielders Jobe Watson and Brent Stanton were Essendon's leading ball-winners, and ruckman David Hille gave his all in a competitive battle with fellow veteran Darren Jolly.

The Bombers lost Tom Bellchambers before the start of the match after he stood on a teammate's foot in the warm-up, reportedly straining ligaments in his foot and ankle.

It meant Hille was the Bombers' only ruckman, cancelling out the advantage they had after selection on Thursday night when Collingwood dropped Chris Dawes, leaving Jolly to ruck solo.

Andrew Krakouer made it safely through his return to senior football, 27 weeks after rupturing his anterior cruciate ligament.

The small forward's impact was limited, collecting 11 possessions and booting one goal, but he looms as a valuable finals asset for Nathan Buckley.

In its final game of a disappointing year, Essendon at least showed some fight.

It started well, booting the first two goals of the game, and was within eight points at half-time and 14 points as far as 15 minutes into the final term.

But despite being wasteful in front of goal, Collingwood's sheer weight of time in attack eventually saw it draw clear.

The Magpies finished with 34 scoring shots to 22, indicating the final margin should have been greater.


ESSENDON               4.3   7.3     9.7     10.12   (72)
COLLINGWOOD    5.5   7.11  10.17   14.20  (104)       

GOALS
Essendon
: O'Brien 2, Zaharakis 2, Crameri, Monfries, Hurley, Myers, Watson, Heppell
Collingwood: Cloke 5, Fasolo 2, Beams, Goldsack, Paine, Swan, Krakouer, Shaw, O'Brien

BEST
Essendon:
Watson, Stanton, Zaharakis, Heppell, Hille, Hurley
Collingwood: Swan, Cloke, Beams, Fasolo, Pendlebury, Thomas

INJURIES
Essendon:
Bellchambers (rolled ankle), replaced in selected side by Browne
Collingwood: Goldsack (ankle)

SUBSTITUTES
Essendon:
Jetta replaced by Browne at three-quarter time
Collingwood: Goldsack (ankle) replaced by Didak in the third quarter

Reports: Nil

Umpires: Donlon, McBurney, Jennings

Official crowd: 56,491 at the MCG

The views in this article are those of the author and not necessarily those of the AFL or its clubs