Essendon win by 16 points
Melbourne had beaten Essendon in the last minute of their Round 14 clash thanks to a controversial free kick in the last minute, so along with the prospect of a finals victory Essendon went into the Semi-Final with all the motivation they needed despite having lost to the Demons in both their meetings during the year. They had been lucky to be playing for the direct route to the Grand Final, only earning a double chance when the previously second placed Hawthorn self-destructed in their last match of the season.
After a number of poor performances to end the season the Demons kept faith with the side who had beaten Richmond in the last game of the home and away season a fortnight earlier - with the exception of Peter Marquis recalled from an eye injury to replace John Lord at centre-half back. On the other side Essendon switched four of their team, including a the surprise selection of John Townser at full back after being dropped to 19th man in their last home and away game.
A disappointing crowd, not much more than the Carlton vs Hawthorn semi final a week earlier, had been affected by a pre-game forecast of cold, showery wind. Those who did show up witnessed the accident semi-finalists spring an upset over the minor premiers.
Essendon surpried Melbourne by their courage early, with back pocket Bob Suter dashing into marking contests three times in the early going. With a strong wind, Melbourne's poor forward play restricted them to three goals. Johnson was being beaten easily at centre half-forward, and Norm Smith left him in attack rather than switch him to the ruck until after the Bombers had taken a commanding lead.
The game turned in the second quarter when Melbourne's defence crumbled under intense pressure, conceding 9.3 and eventually leaving them down by 48 points down at the long break. Melbourne had been chaotic with their forward player, often ignoring Robert B Johnson during the first half even when the Demons had the wind. Both he and Ron Barrassi improved in the second half when they were moved on to the ball.
In an effort to rally his troops John Beckwith climbed on a locker room bench and led a rendition of "Grand Old Flag". The singalong, and the impromptu throwing of pillows at the captain by his teammates, cut the tension in the locker room, and the side was dramatically reshuffled which gave them a second lease of life. Beckwith's side almost went on to pull of a spectacular comeback.
Cutting the gap to four goals at three quarter time despite the predicted rain coming during the term halting their momentum. The switch to a Johnson/Barassi ruck combination had helped, and when the wind dropped before the last quarter they were given a golden opportunity to reel the Bombers in. With 10 minutes left they were just 10 points behind and could have snatched the unlikeliest of wins, but fell short as Essendon's defence tightened, setting up a Preliminary Final battle with Hawthorn a week later.
Bad kicking cost Melbourne again, not only did they score 8.19 but they had another eight shots which failed to register a score. It didn't help that they hit the post four times. They had issues elsewhere too, making mid-match switches at full back, centre half-back, centre, centre half-forward as well as using three different full-forwards during the day.
It was the only major Semi Final that the Demons would ever lose under Norm Smith.
Best were McLean, Beckwith and Johnson. Gleeson was replaced by Mithen at three quarter time after suffering a kick to the knee and Wilson by Sandral in the last quarter. Beckwith, Thorogood and Webb had bruised thighs, Marquis a bruised toe and Gleeson a bruised knee.
The Demons won the free kick count 22-17 but lost the marks 62-34.
B: Beckwith, Carroll, Wilson
HB: Williams, Marquis, Thorogood
C: McLean, Barassi, Dixon
HF: Tunbridge, R. Johnson, Case
F: Fenton-Smith, Webb, Ridley
Foll: Gleeson, T. Johnson, Adams
Res: Sandral, L. Mithen
Emg: Brenchley, Jones, Mountain
R. Johnson 2.1, Tunbridge 2.0, Webb 1.4, Case 1.3, Ridley 1.2, Fenton-Smith 1.0, Mithen 0.4, T. Johnson 0.2, Beckwith 0.1, Barassi 0.1, Rushed 0.1
Newspapers show the crowd as 69,789