MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - MARCH 25: Alastair Clarkson, Senior Coach of the Hawks addresses his players during the 2017 AFL round 01 match between the Essendon Bombers and the Hawthorn Hawks at the Melbourne Cricket Ground on March 25, 2017 in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Adam Trafford/AFL Media/Getty Images)

For years, Hawthorn have been beating sides with their clean ball use by hand and foot, but on Saturday night, it was the Bombers who outplayed the Hawks at their own game.

Essendon were more effective than Hawthorn at 76% throughout the game with more 54 more disposals, but also won the uncontested marks battle 128-76, which Clarkson pinpointed as the most damning stat of the night.

“The rule of thumb for me is if a team wins uncontested marks early in a season by that margin you’re going to be in some trouble, but having said that strangely enough we had our chances,” Clarkson said in his post-match press conference.

“We kicked 12.19 and some of those goals I’m thinking we usually nail, but that’s poor football when you don’t convert your chances.

“We had more inside 50s than Essendon, we had the ball in our half more than Essendon, we had more scoring shots than Essendon, yet … you wouldn’t have thought Hawthorn were controlling the game, Essendon certainly did.

“We could find of plenty of reasons why we lost the game tonight, (but) by and large Essendon were just cleaner and more polished with the ball, and for a long period of time that’s been the way that we’ve been able to play.

“So we’ll get better at that. We’ll try and take stock from this loss and get ourselves ready for the Crows next week.”

Hawthorn small forward Cyril Rioli wasn’t his usual self on Saturday night with just eight disposals and one goal, and Clarkson confirmed the goal sneak carried an injury through most of the match.

Rioli suffered a corked thigh during the first quarter and Clarkson said the injury impacted his production, but says he should be fit to face Adelaide next weekend.

“We don’t see Cyril as quiet as that very often. I think he copped that corkie just before he missed that pretty simple shot at goal in the first quarter,” Clarkson said.

“I don’t want to make excuses for him. While he was out there playing, he was okay to participate and compete, but he copped a knock that meant he probably wasn’t as effective as what he could normally be.

“He copped it at the 20-minute mark of the first quarter and played out the game with not significant enough discomfort for him to leave the ground and not participate, so he should be fine (to play against the Crows).”