Blues pip Eagles at the post

CARLTON 4.2 8.5 9.7 14.8 (92)WEST COAST 4.3 7.6 11.9 12.17 (89)
GOALS Carlton: Garlett 3, Waite 2, Henderson 2, McLean, Buckley, Murphy, Robinson, Warnock, Menzel, Tuohy. West Coast: Cripps 2, Kennedy 2, Shuey 2, Sheed, Yeo, Bennell, McGovern, Hutchings Lycett.
BEST- Carlton: Murphy, McLean, Garlett, Waite, Gibbs, Simpson. West Coast: Priddis, Shuey, Selwood, Cox, McKenzie, Masten.
UMPIRES Pannell, Foot, Stephens.
CROWD 31,005 at Etihad Stadium.

If Carlton is to end up making something of a season that looked dead and buried a bit over a week ago, the final 10 minutes of Saturday night's three-point win over West Coast will surely be the source of much pride.

If the Blues weren't "gone", they were certainly "going" - 24 points down with less than 10 minutes on the clock and the Eagles having enjoyed about 10 inside 50 entries to just one in the first 10 minutes of the last quarter. The only blow not yet landed by the visitors was that which would see Carlton officially pronounced dead.

Indeed, you could argue the Blues were wounded even before that. Certainly in the midfield. No Chris Judd, no Tom Bell, no Ed Curnow. No David Ellard. Andrew Carrazzo a late withdrawal and Chris Yarran subbed out with hamstring soreness before three-quarter time. No wonder by midway through the final term the Eagles looked ready to pounce.

But West Coast kicked a point, then another, then another. It refused to play the percentages. It fiddled. And then Rome burned. Carlton found a glimmer of hope in Jeff Garlett's third goal of the game. Started to believe after Zac Tuohy followed with another. Began to surge when Lachie Henderson made it just a kick the difference. And was an unstoppable force by the time late replacement Dylan Buckley levelled the scores with still five minutes left on the clock.

Behinds were exchanged before Carlton skipper Marc Murphy, a star for his side all day, took a desperate dash around the wing, and substitute Troy Menzel wheeled on to his left foot and put the Blues a goal up.

Even then West Coast might have pinched it. Scott Selwood hit the post with just under two minutes left on the clock. Josh Kennedy did it too, off the ground from the goal square, with a minute remaining. Luke Shuey, game all evening for the visitors, had one last desperate snap from a tight angle. Of course, given how the final term ran for the Eagles, it missed.

Indeed, West Coast will kick itself over this defeat, and so it should - 1.8 the sorry tale of its final term chances. But it was that sort of game, neither side able to stay on top for quite long enough to establish a decisive break.

That had certainly been the case as Carlton played the master earlier in the piece. As clearly half asleep as the Eagles were when the game started, you couldn't deny the quality of Carlton's football, the Blues bringing out some of their free-flowing best in the first 10 minutes or so.

The kick-start came in the unlikely frame of ruckman Robert Warnock, who dragged opponent Nic Naitanui down the ground, managed to beat his more athletic adversary to the crumbs of a goal-square marking contest and snapped beautifully.

About five minutes later, Jarrad Waite rolled the dice and slipped out the back of a marking contest, opponent Eric Mackenzie left stranded as a Garlett tap put his teammate into an open goal. Barely a minute later, Waite had his second courtesy of a goal-square free-kick. And Yarran, already causing headaches for the Eagles with his run off half-back, launched another assault that ended in a fourth for the Blues, to Mitch Robinson.

But if West Coast needed some jolting into action, that appeared to do the trick, four goals within eight minutes from the 15-minute mark having them in front after having trailed by 24 points.

Big man Scott Lycett had the first, Shuey the next couple, and by the time Jamie Cripps made it four, the Eagles had retrieved the deficit with Carlton not only having failed to score, but not even getting the ball inside its forward 50 for 10 minutes.

The second term panned out in pretty similar fashion, the Blues kicking four of the first five, West Coast the last two. But by the final change, the Eagles had kicked four of the five in a quarter that saw the Blues fade badly. With Kennedy dobbing one right on the bell, things looked pretty ominous.

They remained grim for most of the final term, too. But that old chestnut about never giving a sucker an even break has never been truer than in a pulsating final term at Etihad Stadium. Carlton found the character that had been sorely missing in rounds three and four of this campaign. It found some fortune in the failure of its opponent to finish things off. And in the end, it found itself with the four match points, too.

The story Blues pip Eagles at the post first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.

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