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Brave Blues beaten in thriller

Ben Guthrie, AFL Media  July 9, 2017 6:24 PM

Highlights | Carlton v Melbourne The Blues and Demons clash in Round 16.

An undermanned Melbourne has pulled out all the stops to run down a brave Carlton, outpointing its opponents in a tense last term to claim a thrilling eight-point victory at the MCG on Sunday. 

Without co-captains Nathan Jones and Jack Viney, and inside midfielder Dom Tyson, who are all sidelined with injury, the Demons dug deep in the final stanza to overrun a resilient Blues outfit 14.6 (90) to 12.10 (82).

Carlton lost star midfielder Patrick Cripps to a significant leg injury and defender Simon White to a knee injury in the second quarter. 

The hard-fought win raises the Demons to fifth place on the ladder (behind Port Adelaide on percentage) and the victory over the Blues was a welcome tonic after a horror loss to Sydney last week.

Jake Melksham stepped up in a big moment for his new club, kicking the all-important go-ahead goal, from 50m out, at the 22-minute mark of the fourth quarter.

The goal gave the Demons a two-point buffer with less than five minutes remaining. As Carlton threw everything it had at them, the Demons held firm and some smart clock management from Alex Neal-Bullen saw Jordan Lewis capitalise in front of goal after the final siren.

Max Gawn had the honour of captaining Melbourne's side for the day, but it was fellow leader Tom McDonald who seized the moment and led his side to a heart-stopping win.

The defender turned forward continued his stellar form in front of the big sticks, slotting four goals, and giving the Demons the impetus to fight back from a 19-point quarter-time deficit.

McDonald has now booted 14 goals in his past five matches and with Jesse Hogan still finding his feet after having surgery to remove testicular cancer just 54 days ago, he was the man to lead Melbourne home.

After being criticised for a much-publicised dive against West Coast two rounds ago, Clayton Oliver's toughness came to the fore as he fought through heavy attention from the Blues on his way to a team-high 29 disposals and nine tackles.

Oliver was also involved in a verbal altercation with a Blues fan in the second quarter where he was quick to snap back at a heckler over the fence.

Coach Simon Goodwin said he wanted to establish all the facts first before commenting on the incident.

"I'll have a chat with Clayton but I haven't got all the information so once I get that then we can have a chat about it," Goodwin said.

"Clearly Clayton isn't going to react to something unnecessarily so let's get all the information on the table before we start criticising people."

Neal-Bullen (25 touches and two goals) was poised in pressure situations, while Sam Frost's rebounding ability out of the back half proved crucial.

Carlton was well on top early, kicking the first three goals of the match as ruckman Matthew Kreuzer got the upper hand in his duel with reigning All Australian ruckman Max Gawn.

Kreuzer (18 disposals and 28 hit-outs) was the catalyst for the Blues' early ascendancy and the Blues were dominating in the middle of the ground with the likes of Cripps, Marc Murphy, Bryce Gibbs and Sam Kerridge all thriving.

The leg injury to Cripps, suffered in the second quarter, changed the whole complexion of the match and when the Blues lost White to a left knee injury right before half-time the momentum swung back in the Demons' favour.

Down to two healthy men on the bench, the Blues fought valiantly in the second half, as their young players Charlie Curnow (19 disposals, 10 marks and two goals) and Sam Petrevski-Seton (16 disposals and nine tackles) rose to the occasion.

But in the end the lack of rotations (71-84) proved costly for the Blues as the inexperienced side began to feel the pinch in a pressure-filled final term.

"It just reinforces that we’ve got some really strong characters who will dig in deep," Blues coach Brendon Bolton said after the match.

"We’ll never blame rotations as a reason (for losing) because the game requires you to find a way. Our guys found a way to get enough looks in the last and just didn't complete those plays."
 

In an entertaining contest, there were five lead changes in the second half, but it was Melbourne who came out on top to clinch an important victory as it eyes off a spot in September.

MEDICAL ROOM

Carlton: Carlton star Patrick Cripps left the ground in severe discomfort after being accidentally kicked in the back of the leg, as he attempted to smother Jayden Hunt's clearing kick from defence. Cripps went straight down to the rooms and did not come back onto the ground in the second half and was spotted on crutches on the bench. Simon White hurt his left knee in a marking contest late in the second quarter and was helped from the field by trainers. He also did not return after the long break. The Blues will assess both players before

Melbourne: For the first time in a long while, the Demons emerged from the game unscathed. 

NEXT UP
The Blues return to the MCG to face off against the battling Western Bulldogs next Sunday. Melbourne has a trip to Darwin to face ladder leader Adelaide next Saturday night and could welcome back Jack Watts and Dom Tyson from injury for the clash in the Top End.

CARLTON        4.3       7.5       9.8       12.10 (82)
MELBOURNE  1.2       7.4       11.5     14.6 (90) 

GOALS
Carlton: Silvagni 3, Curnow 2, Wright 2, Murphy 2, Casboult, Kreuzer, Petrevski-Seton
Melbourne: T.McDonald 4, Garlett 3, Wagner 2, Neal-Bullen 2, Melksham, Hogan, Lewis

BEST 
Carlton: Kreuzer, Gibbs, Murphy, Curnow, Docherty, Casboult, Kerridge
Melbourne: T.McDonald, Oliver, Neal-Bullen, Jetta, Petracca, Frost, Lewis

INJURIES 
Carlton: Cripps (left leg), White (left knee)

Melbourne: Nil

Reports: Nil

Umpires: Deboy, Williamson, Ryan

Official crowd: 47,266 at the MCG