CARLTON has fallen by 26 points against Melbourne at the MCG.
Despite the best efforts of leaders Sam Docherty, Sam Walsh and Patrick Cripps, Melbourne broke the game open in the third quarter to ultimately prevail by four goals.
Harry McKay once again hit the scoreboard with three goals, while Nic Newman emerged unscathed in his first game in nearly a year. An early knee injury to David Cuningham was the sour note for Carlton, who will look to rebound when it returns to the MCG next weekend to when it hosts Hawthorn.
Matthew Owies got the ball rolling from a Carlton perspective, answering Bayley Fritsch's opener at the other end. Medical sub Michael Gibbons received an earlier-than-expected call-up after David Cuningham sustained a left knee injury in the opening minute of the game. Patrick Cripps and Ed Curnow led the way from a physicality point of view, while Liam Jones took the points early in his tussle with fellow Tasmanian Ben Brown. Carlton's forward pressure had them in the game early, best demonstrated with Eddie Betts' first goal of the day from an intercept and snap. Marc Pittonet slotted a handy goal as he looked to take the game to Max Gawn, but three late goals from Melbourne on the back of its transition from defence to attack saw the hosts take a seven-point lead into the first change.
The quarter started with some end-to-end play before Melbourne hit the scoreboard through Fritsch as the Blues couldn’t lock the ball in their 50 long enough to convert. In a more-advanced role, Sam Docherty was dynamic with and without the ball, accumulating 16 possessions to half time. The co-captain was the provider for milestone man Levi Casboult's first goal of the day. Marc Murphy got going with nine second-quarter possessions, but the Blues struggled to find a match for Tom McDonald who had three goals to his name by half time. An assist from Sam Walsh saw Liam Stocker kick his first AFL goal, before Harry McKay - who battled manfully through a shoulder injury - bobbed up with his first of the day. However, a late Jayden Hunt goal extended the margin to 13 points at the main change.
The rain started falling at half time, leaving the two sides coming back to slippery conditions. Despite losing the hitouts, Carlton led the clearances, but turnovers in dangerous positions saw the ball quickly leave their half. Cripps’ tackling effort was strong for his side, as the Blues were able to lock the ball in their forward half in wet conditions but unable to get the score on the board. The lack of scoreboard pressure proved costly when the Demons piled on three consecutive goals, before two majors in quick succession to Harry McKay looked to have the Blues back in the contest. Adam Saad was composed with his ball use, but the Blues struggled to get passed the twin defensive towers of Jake Lever and Steven May. Another late goal had the Blues needing to overcome a 26-point deficit at the final break.
Nic Newman was solid in his first game back, holding up well against a barrage of Melbourne forward entries to end the day with 20 disposals (14 kicks). Melbourne got on the front foot in the final term, forcing turnovers and spending the majority of the time in the forward half as it looked to ice the contest. Murphy added to his career highlight reel with a classy goal from the pocket, while Liam Jones was moved to the forward line to provide another marking option after keeping Ben Brown to just three marks and one behind. It would end as a 26-point defeat for Carlton when the siren blared around the MCG.
Three things from the game
- The Blues brought the heat against the Demons, but it was their lack of polish on the big stage which cost them on Sunday afternoon. Carlton amassed its highest tackle tally of the season with 76 in a physical encounter at the MCG, with 21 of those coming inside 50. However, something which had been their strong suit in recent weeks - turning inside 50s into scores - was what was lacking against the undefeated Melbourne (18 scoring shots from 53 inside 50s).
- It was a welcome sight for Carlton supporters to have Nic Newman back in the line-up, who provided his touch of class in possession as well as his experience behind the ball. It was just the start after a lengthy injury layoff, but finishing with 20 disposals and rebound 50s was a box ticked for the left-footed defender.
- Lachie Fogarty continued to add to his impressive early form in Navy Blue. Finishing with 23 disposals, six inside 50s and six clearances, Fogarty relished the opportunity of more midfield minutes after the unfortunate early injury to David Cuningham. He was one of four Blues who ended the game with six or more tackles, with Patrick Cripps (11) leading the way in that aspect.
Moment of the match
It’s hard to go past your first goal in Navy Blue.
In his ninth game, Liam Stocker's maiden major in the big time showed the class which the former Sandringham Dragon possesses.
Getting the end of a handball receive from fellow 2018 draft class member Sam Walsh, Stocker's instinctive right-foot snap sailed straight over the goal umpire's hat.
MELBOURNE 4.3 8.6 12.9 13.16 (94)
CARLTON 3.2 6.5 8.7 10.8 (68)
Carlton: McKay 3, Betts, Casboult, Gibbons, Murphy, Owies, Pittonet, Stocker
Carlton: Docherty, Walsh, Cripps, Saad, Fogarty
Carlton: Cuningham (knee)