IT WAS a monumental victory for the Blues in the west, as they beat the Eagles by 63 points.
Keeping the West Coast to two scoreless quarters, Carlton delivered his best tally against the Eagles in Western Australia, aided by the performance of Charlie Curnow and Harry McKay in a combined 10-goal performance.
Sam Docherty and Adam Cerra both had 28 transfers, while Nic Newman contributed seven interceptions in a solid win for the Blues.
Having not beaten the Eagles in eight years (and not in Perth since 2010), the flight back to Melbourne will be pleasant for the Blues, who have given themselves a good percentage increase ahead of the final rounds of the season.
It was a dominating first term for the Blues, who managed to keep the Eagles completely scoreless. The game was competitive from the first rebound, played quickly and physically, with lots of choking and tackling. Zac Fisher got the first goal on the board, while Harry McKay produced an excellent chasing tackle that resulted in Charlie Curnow’s opening goal. Carlton’s forward pressure was immense, with West Coast failing to reach an inside 50 until the 17th minute of the quarter and Carlton leading 15-0 in halftime interceptions before – ending up being the main source of their goals. The Blues had the best of early clearances, giving them ownership of the field position. Curnow had three disputed points as well as two goals, while Corey Durdin and McKay also contributed goals to Carlton’s 34-point lead.
The West Coast definitely responded in the second quarter, scoring seven goals to Carlton’s three. Tom De Koning performed well in the ruck against Nic Naitanui and Bailey Williams but the Eagles managed to get things going for them in the middle which resulted in a more advanced half for the home side. Goals from McKay, Curnow and Durdin kept the Blues in the game, but other than that it was all on Eagles terms. The pressure from the Blues was down as the Eagles gained momentum, getting the upper hand on contested possessions (42-31). Josh Kennedy became a handful for Carlton in the defensive arc, while Lewis Young and Nic Newman fought valiantly. Matt Kennedy received the bulk of the clearances for the Carlton midfielder (six at halftime), using his physicality alongside Patrick Cripps to move the ball. Sam Docherty finished the half with five inside 50, gaining the most yards for the Blues, but after all his hard work in the first term, Carlton entered the main break just 10 points clear. .
It was a relatively even but messy quarter, with neither side able to open play. The Blues couldn’t get the start they were hoping for, missing a few key chances in front of goal. Curnow was a bright spark for Carlton, scoring twice on the season to take his tally to five for the game: his contested marking was crucial as an outlet for the Blues. Carlton was unable to mount the same pressure in his front line as he did in the first term, recording a front-half kicking efficiency of just 23% for the term. Young continued to provide a solid interception game and Adam Cerra fought back in the contest (seven possessions contested). Carlton had a purple smudge in the final five minutes of the season where he was able to hold the ball in his front half, keeping a 17-point lead going into the final change.
Carlton came out of the gates strong, as McKay scored back-to-back goals to extend the margin to 29 points. From there it was all Blues as Matt Cottrell and Patrick Cripps also scored a goal apiece to the delight of a vocal navy contingent in the stands. Even though the rain started to get heavier, Carlton was playing cleaner football than he had in the previous two terms. Cottrell provided clever play down the wing and the Blues consistently won the ball through the middle, pushing the ball forward at will after the stilted slog that preceded it. Sam Walsh was on another level, picking up 12 eliminations in the final quarter, including four scoring appearances and a goal. Carlton didn’t give up after taking a comfortable lead, increasing the pressure on the scoreboard with seven goals and again keeping the West Coast scoreless.
Three things about the game
1. Matt Kennedy was important for the Blues throughout the game, battling through the middle when Carlton was under the pump. Kennedy’s clearances and contested possessions were the hallmark of his game, while Adam Cerra also produced a polished midfield performance in familiar territory at Optus Stadium.
2. It’s not easy to maintain a dominant game for four quarters, but Carlton showed maturity by continuing to fight even when things didn’t go as planned. Facing a danger point in the second term, the Blues managed to even things up in the third quarter and finally broke in the last term, doing exactly what they needed for their biggest win of the season and their first against the opposition since 2014. It was an indication of the team’s growth in 2022.
3. Not for the first time in recent weeks, Tom De Koning has come up against a much-loved opposition ruckman and has certainly held his own. Against Nic Naitanui, De Koning finished with 17 hits, but it was his work on the field – recording a career-high 16 takedowns and six clearances – that allowed him to provide his midfielders with clear access to the ball. It’s safe to say that the emerging big has found his feet against some of the best rucks in the competition.
WESTERN COAST 0.0 7.3 8.5 8.5
CARLTON 5.4 8.7 10.10 17.14
Carlton: Curnow 5, McKay 5, Durdin 2, Fisher 2, Cottrell, Cripps, Walsh
Carlton: Curnow, De Koning, Kennedy, Cerra, McKay, Docherty, Walsh