Collingwood is into the top four while Carlton has fluffed a finals berth and snatched defeat from the jaws of victory for the second straight week in the most dramatic climax to the AFL home and away season.
The Blues seemed finals-bound after a blistering third quarter, kicking eight goals to one to lead by 24 points at three quarter-time.
But Collingwood, as it has done so many times this season, rallied and came up clutch again in the dying minutes, booting five unanswered goals — including another match-winner from Jamie Elliott — to break Carlton hearts and win by one point, 11.9 (75) to 10.14 (74).
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The win guaranteed a top-four spot for Collingwood, while allowing the Western Bulldogs to replace Carlton in eighth.
QUARTER-BY-QUARTER MATCH REPORT
Sam Walsh was officially ruled out by the Blues an hour before the game due to back soreness and replaced by Lochie O’Brien. Jack Newnes was named medical sub.
There were no late changes for the Magpies, with Ollie Henry the medical sub.
Steele Sidebottom kicked the first goal of the match with a brilliant set shot from the boundary.
Harry McKay missed a set shot for the Blues at the other end, but the Pies were also wayward barring Sidebottom’s opening score.
The Pies continued to loom large in their forward-half, with a streak of four behinds broken by Jack Crisp for the second major of the game.
Midway through the first quarter, the Western Bulldogs’ game against Hawthorn ended with a win to the Dogs, meaning the Blues had to win to seal a finals spot.
Jack Ginnivan kicked Collingwood’s third goal with some good crumbing work in the goalsquare.
Collingwood entered quarter-time with a 20-point lead.
The Blues finally got their first goal of the game, which came via a Matt Owies set shot in the second quarter.
That goal was followed a scuffle between both sides as tensions flared.
Harry McKay brought the Blues to within eight points, but the Pies hit back with two goals, with both coming via superb finishes from Jack Ginnivan and Ash Johnson respectively.
Johnson’s major proved the final of the quarter, with Collingwood taking a 19-point lead into the main break.
But the Blues upped their defensive pressure in the third term — and it paid dividends on the scoreboard.
A courageous effort by Carlton skipper Patrick Cripps led to a loose ball where Adam Cerra pounced and goaled.
Sam Docherty and then Cerra then converted their set-shot opportunities from free kicks to set the MCG alight.
“Here come the Blues,” Channel 7’s James Brayshaw said.
And when Charlie Curnow converted from just inside 50, the Blues had hit the front — and were back in the top eight.
But the Blues weren’t done there, with Harry McKay snapping truly before Jesse Motlop had the moment of his life, picking up a loose ball and kicking a goal on his left.
“The MCG is rocking,” Brayshaw said.
After six unanswered goals, the Pies finally responded through a lovely left-foot finish from Ginnivan for his third major.
But within seconds the Blues hit back, with Curnow calmly slotting a tough shot for his second of the term.
“The Blues are ferocious at ground level,” Nathan Jones told Channel 7.
Motlop then kicked his second of the quarter to cap off an eight-goal to one term as the Blues turned a 13-point deficit into a 24-point lead at the final change.
The Blues were +22 contested possessions in the third quarter alone and +7 for inside 50s.
It was a scrappy start to the fourth quarter, but the Pies pounced first on the scoreboard, with Johnson converting a set-shot after a questionable free kick to give the Pies hope.
The Pies had more control of the tempo of the game at the start of the fourth quarter, but were let down by poor disposal forward of centre.
But they found some connection with 12 minutes to go, with Mason Cox kicking a set-shot goal to reduce the margin to 14 points.
“Is there another twist left just yet?” Channel 7’s Brian Taylor said.
Both Lochie O’Brien and Harry McKay had a long-range set-shot opportunities to give the Blues breathing space, only for their kicks to sail left. Curnow also missed a snap shot.
And the Pies pounced. Jamie Elliott soared high to mark and goal before Beau McCreery pulled off the kick of his life, nailing a miraculous goal from the boundary lime to reduce the margin to five points.
“This is insane,” Brayshaw said.
Elliott came up clutch again, nailing a running goal from a tight angle to put the Pies in front.
“The Pies’ belief to will themselves back into the contest, you have to see it and be here to believe it. It’s amazing,” Jones said.
McKay had a chance to take a mark but wasn’t rewarded with a free kick.
The Pies then held on to win by one point.
CRIPPS STEPS UP IN WALSH’S ABSENCE
Nathan Jones put it best.
“Patrick Cripps … an absolute beast,” he told Channel 7 during the third quarter.
“He’s tearing them apart at the contest.”
On Sunday afternoon with his side’s finals hopes on the line, Cripps put in a three-vote performance and quite possibly one of the best of his career.
Cripps was a sheer wrecking ball through the middle of the ground and racked up contested possessions at an extraordinary rate.
It was an awe-inspiring performance by the skipper and one that makes the AFL Appeals Board’s decision to overturn his ban such a pivotal one in the context of Carlton’s season.
It was sheer will from Cripps at times that helped lift his side off the canvas, along with a brilliant performance from lieutenant Adam Cerra, who both lifted in the absence of Sam Walsh.
They threw absolutely everything they had at the Pies.
BLUES THROW EVERYTHING AT PIES
The third quarter is often dubbed the premiership quarter.
Carlton didn’t win the flag as a result of their third term, but they did everything they could to seal their finals fate because of it.
The eight-year finals drought is over for Blues fans, who took control of their own destiny in a pulsating third quarter that had the MCG shaking.
It was a 43-point turnaround for the Blues, who entered the third term 19 points down and finished it 24 points up.
In the first quarter and even the first half, the Blues were dominating at the contest, but it wasn’t counting for much.
“Carlton are +20 in contested ball but that hasn’t worried Collingwood in the last six or seven weeks in particular,” Nathan Buckley observed on Fox Footy at half-time.
“Collingwood are winning all the key contests and they just look like they have an extra one or two on the field and that is what they’ve looked like in their run of wins up to the Sydney loss last week.
“The game is in their control, especially in a transition sense.”
If post-clearance, forward-half contested possession was a clearer indication of where the. game sat, it helps explain the Blues’ fightback.
They were -6 in the first term, +5 in the second and then +10 in the decisive third.
“They got a taste for it … they were up for the fight all of a sudden,” Nick Riewoldt told Fox Footy.
“Their nerves, they settled.”
The sheer dominance the Blues enjoyed as a result was incredible.
They won disposals by 20, contested possessions by 22, clearances by two, inside 50s by seven and, most importantly, the scoreboard by 43.
It didn’t prove enough in the end, but they left absolutely nothing out on the park.
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