Blake Acres kicked the winner as Carlton advanced to their first AFL Preliminary Final since 2000 after getting over the line against Melbourne in a thrilling contest.
Played before a crowd of 96,412 at the MCG, these two sides put on an instant classic and such a great advert for the game that went right down to the wire.
The key moment came, 60 seconds from time, when Sam Docherty, who dislocated his shoulder earlier in the night, picked out Acres at the top of the goal square.
The 27-year-old took the mark and then was able to squeeze the ball through the big sticks, from close-range, to score arguably the most important goal of his career.
The Demons will be seething that they left the door ajar, failing to kill it off as they scored five behinds in a row prior; a total of 17 on the night. Their inaccuracy saw them pay the ultimate price and they go out in straight sets for a second consecutive year.
For the Blues and their supporters, seeing their side play finals for the first time in a decade, the dream continues, which is even more remarkable when you consider they only won four of their opening 13 games, and they now head up to Brisbane.
Talking post-match to Fox Footy, captain Patrick Cripps (pictured above) said “I can’t believe it. This is unreal. It’s just a credit to the boys, credit to Melbourne. I love the way they go about it; a fierce contest all night.”
“To win a final, you’ve got to win a few times in the game, Voss (Blues coach) says. They came out. You know, we knew they would respond from last week. We fought back. Just an arm wrestle. Special game. Waited 10 years for this. Two down, off to Brissie next week now.”
On the atmosphere, he responded “It’s the best. That’s the biggest crowd I’ve been in front of. So good when you’ve got two fan bases going as well. Momentum is huge. Both supporter bases were loud tonight. That roar.”
Midfielder Sam Walsh (pictured above) told Fox Footy:
“It was incredible fight by the boys. Hard to put it into words at the moment. Just the atmosphere and the way we come back, just show great fight. One of the tightest games of footy I ever played. Credit to Melbourne, a bloody good team.”
“Just feels like we’re just ready to go again each week. That’s been the mindset the past couple of months. I just feel like the way we’re playing has created so much energy on game day. Even in those hustles, there’s so many moments in finals games you just have to keep coming. I just think we were playing as a team. The best thing about winning finals is you can learn this week, take it into the next.”
In the other semi-final, Jesse Hogan (pictured below) booted four majors as Greater Western Sydney made it through to the last four at the expense of Port Adelaide at a sold-out Oval.
A devastating spell of five goals inside ten minutes, in the second quarter, proved a pivotal spell as the Orange Tsunami went up on to chalk up an impressive victory.
When they were challenged by the hosts, who looked to get back into it after the half-time interval, they were able to stand up and handle the encounter extremely well.
Ruckman Kieren Briggs (pictured above), who earlier in the week signed a two-year contract extension, was excellent in the middle of the park while defender Connor Idun did a fantastic job down back in nullifying the threat and impact of Connor Rozee.
The return of vice-captain and All-Australian Stephen Coniglio (pictured below), from an eye injury he suffered in training, came at the perfect time as he, Callan Ward and Josh Kelly dominated the midfield, particularly in the early stages, and played big roles.
A really dirty night for Port which also went out in straight sets and this is now their fourth sudden-death final defeat, on their home deck, in the last seven seasons.
Many pundits and the statistics say that a club cannot win it from outside the top four but the Giants only have to look at what the Bulldogs did, from seventh, in 2016.
It is four straight successes now and they will hold no fear and be full of confidence travelling to face minor Premiers Collingwood, next Friday evening, at the MCG.
On the ground chatting to Channel 7, captain Toby Greene (pictured above) said “We were full of confidence, we knew if we played close to our best we were going to be hard to beat. They are a good side and made us work. They came hard in the third. We had full confidence that if we played our brand we would be tough to beat.”
He went on “We’ve always been a super close club. We travel a lot, the last two weeks has been so much fun. Feels like we’re back home at the MCG next week. That was the plan. We are pumped. Travelling and getting wins like this, is what football is about. If you have the will, you can do well.”
Speaking in the presser, a delighted coach Adam Kingsley (pictured above) said;
“We played pretty well tonight. That run-and-carry game that we try and implement looked really good at times. Equally as much, our pressure and our forward defence was really strong.”
“They challenged us last time we played them and we didn’t have that same mindset for that particular game for whatever reason. So, it was an important adjustment we were able to make and it certainly helped us.”
He continued “The last two weeks we have been able to score from stoppages which is really nice. We are not solely relying on our turnover game, we are adding the stoppage game, which makes us even more of a threat.”
He concluded “We will enjoy the win tonight for sure. Obviously a six-day break, so we will recover really well, prepare really well as we do. I think you have to enjoy your wins though, there is no point just moving on because it is a six-day break; at the start of next week all our focus will be on Collingwood.”
Melbourne 9.17 (71)
Carlton 11.7 (73)
Port Adelaide 9.16 (70)
GWS Giants 13.15 (93)
AFL finals: Week 3 fixtures – Preliminary Finals
Friday 22 September – Collingwood v GWS @ MCG (7.50pm AEST)
Saturday 23 September – Brisbane v Carlton @ Gabba (5.15pm AEST)
Vale Ron Barassi
The AFL world was rocked, over the weekend, with the very sad news that one of the all-time greats, of this sport, Ron Barassi had passed away at the age of 87.
He is considered one of the most important figures in the game’s history and the very first player to be inaugurated into the Australian Football Hall of Fame as a Legend.
He was a six-time Premiership player for Melbourne and a four-time Premiership coach with two different clubs and leaves behind a legacy in almost every facet.
A brief statement released by the family said “After a full and extraordinary life, Ronald Dale Barassi, aged 87, left us today after complications from a fall. He died peacefully, surrounded by his loving family. We ask for privacy at this time.”
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