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Janet Linn reporting for AFANA from Australia

A disappointed Hawthorn side will rue the impact of poor kicking on goal and a lack of desperation in the final quarter against Collingwood in the first Preliminary Final. The Hawks had been on top of the much-fancied Minor Premiers for most of the first three quarters but are now doomed to wonder what might have been as the more determined Pies’ outfit looks forward to a Grand Final against Geelong next Saturday.

It was the first time in history that Collingwood and Hawthorn had clashed in the Preliminary Final. Both teams started close to full strength with Hawks’ stars Lance Franklin and Josh Gibson much-talked about after excellent games in the Semi-Final against Carlton. Ben Reid and Dale Thomas were important inclusions for Collingwood with their selection in the All-Australian team during the week underlining how crucial they are to their side’s chances for consecutive Premierships.

Momentum was with the Hawks during the first quarter but they could not get the advantage on the scoreboard. The quarter was high intensity and pressure football at its best. The Hawks’ risky short kicks and indirect play proved troublesome to Collingwood who seemed thrown either by the occasion or by the Hawks’ tactics. Travis Cloke was a target up forward for the Pies and Franklin loomed, as usual, as a danger man for Hawthorn.

Collingwood star duo Dane Swan and Scott Pendlebury gained prominence in the second quarter. Hawthorn had early chances but both Cyril Rioli and Brendan Whitecross missed easy shots before Franklin took a strong grab against Tarrant and scored a major. Minutes later, he loomed large again in front of the goal posts and Hawthorn took a 13 point lead. Collingwood could not find the time or the space to get their running game going but Darren Jolly was awarded a free kick and converted. At the half time break, it was an absorbing contest with a small eight point lead to Hawthorn.

Hawthorn’s Brent Guerra scored the opening goal in the third quarter and when the Pies’ skipper Nick Maxwell was caught holding the ball minutes later, Sam Mitchell put another goal through for the Hawks to provide a 21 point buffer. The upset of the Finals was brewing but the Pies were not done with and goals to Leon Davis and Cloke brought the margin back to 11 points. A superb goal to Rioli gave the Hawks the ascendancy at the final break but missed opportunities by Puopolo, Burgoyne and Hodge would have put the game almost beyond doubt. As it was, the misses gave Collingwood the small window of opportunity it needed.

With early last quarter goals to Chris Dawes and Davis, the Pies were closing with the margin back to four points. Captain Luke Hodge kicked one for the Hawks before Swan booted a brilliant goal from a stoppage deep in the forward pocket. When Cloke took a strong pack mark with seven minutes to go, Collingwood took the lead and fans were on the edge of their seats. Franklin conjured a remarkable goal out of nothing and the Hawks were back in front. It was heart-stopping football and everything fans could hope for from a Final. Just when it looked like Hawthorn might get over the line, Luke Ball snapped a goal from another stoppage and the Pies stole the lead. Hawthorn had one more attacking move but as Rioli charged across the centre line with the ball, Dale Thomas, very down on form to this point, chased hard and caught him holding the ball.

It was game, set and a Grand Final appearance for Collingwood. As Dane Swan said in his Brownlow Medal acceptance speech on the Monday night after the thriller, good teams find a way to win even when they don’t play well. Such was Collingwood’s performance and they now move into solid contention for consecutive Premierships under Mick Malthouse in his final game as coach. Alastair Clarkson, Hawthorn coach, was devastated after the game and acknowledged the fact that the Hawks did not play four quarters of football and had effectively denied themselves the win.

Collingwood: 2.3 3.5 5.6 10.8  (68)
Hawthorm:    2.4 4.7 7.11 9.11 (65)

Best players
Collingwood: Cloke, Swan, Pendlebury, Ball, Tarrant
Hawthorn:    Burgoyne, Sewell, Lewis, Mitchell, Hodge

Article last changed on Tuesday, September 27, 2011 - 10:42 AM EDT

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