Anzac Day proves Collingwood's defence is as elite as its midfield

MELBOURNE, Australia -- When you look at Collingwood's team on paper, it's hard not to be drawn to the superstars patrolling the middle of the ground.

Scott Pendlebury. Adam Treloar. Steele Sidebottom. Brodie Grundy. Dayne Beams. Taylor Adams. The list seems to just go on and on and on.

But as talented as the Magpies' midfield core is, it was their unheralded defence which stood up on Thursday afternoon and guided Collingwood to one of the all-time classic Anzac Day wins in front of 92,241 fans at the Melbourne Cricket Ground.

The game seemed all but over when the Pies opened up a 33-point margin midway through the second term, but a stunning response saw the Bombers start to take control in the midfield and with it wrestle back momentum.

They closed to within a goal on a number of occasions in the second half but were never able to hit the front as Collingwood's back six remained resolute. In the end they kept Essendon -- a side which had been averaging 119.33 points per game through April -- to just 69, winning by four points to improve to 4-2 after six games.

"We were hanging on in the last quarter when they were coming," Collingwood defender Tom Langdon told ESPN. "They're obviously a really strong offensive team so to hold them off and get the four points is incredible.

"We're not talked about that often, but there's a lot of guys in our defence that would prefer it [like that] and enjoy staying under the radar. What we've built over the last few years is a really reliable back six. We're starting to play a lot of football together and there's a lot of talent back there. I'll let the midfielders and forwards take the publicity."

Key pillars Jeremy Howe and Darcy Moore were dynamic throughout the contest and time and time again snuffed out Essendon's forays forwards. They combined for 37 possessions, 16 marks (seven contested) and 13 rebound 50s and between them saved three goals with clutch tackles and spoils.

They were well supported by former Bulldog Jordan Roughead and Brayden Maynard who both dominated their match-ups. Roughead kept Mitch Brown goalless and to just seven disposals while Maynard curbed the influence of the dangerous Anthony McDonald-Tipungwuti, also preventing him from hitting the scoreboard.

Jack Crisp was electric off half back with 29 disposals, four inside 50s and six tackles, while Langdon played the floating defender role to great effect.

The stat sheet suggested Joe Daniher, who kicked four goals, got the points over Moore, but the 23-year-old actually won more one-on-one contests than his opponent, keeping him quiet for large periods of the game.

Moore has reinvented himself since Nathan Buckley shifted him from the forward line to defence and after six rounds has catapulted himself into All Australian consideration.

"He's one of the best key forwards or key backs in the game," Langdon said of Moore. "To have him in the backline is awesome. He probably plays his best football there where he can run and jump at it.

"You don't want to go up with Darcy because he's probably got an extra foot on you. He's got some serious talent. For him to be playing his best football and injury-free is awesome for him and the club."

Since last year's Round 19 loss to Richmond, the Pies have been arguably the competition's best defensive side. They have not conceded a single triple figure score in their last 14 games, the longest active streak in the competition. In that time, they have managed to keep their opposition to an average of 70.64 points per game.

Forget the midfield. Forget the forwards. Collingwood's back six is what can take them to a flag in 2019.