Rick Browner reporting from AFANA from Subiaco Oval
An out of form Carlton side returned to Subiaco Oval in Round 17, having lost 11 of their last 13 encounters in the West. Although the Blues are in the top eight and the West Coast Eagles are last on the Ladder, the bookmakers had the odds almost even. Such is the nature of the competition this year, where even the last placed teams can be competitive and cause an upset.
Much of the first part of the game was played in the Eagles’ forward half. Andrew Strijk took West Coast to an early lead after intercepting a kick in and converting on goal. Soon after, Jarrad Waite evened the score from a free kick in the goal square. West Coast players were playing on with confidence at every opportunity and looked sharp with crisp delivery to their teammates. Mark LeCras started his game with a Goal of the Year contender when he kicked a low bouncing major from deep in the forward pocket. Both teams missed easy shots in front of goal in the quarter, but the Eagles went into the first break leading by five points.
Eagle Brett Ebert scored the first goal of the second quarter after a series of good passes out of the back line. Waite again answered for the Blues before LeCras unleashed some pocket-picking brilliance when he stole the ball and pivoted to his left to score another outstanding goal. The Eagles looked to be in control when LeCras kicked yet another goal, followed quickly by one from Josh Kennedy. Chris Yarran scored a timely goal for the Blues as the half wound down but the momentum was firmly with the Eagles as they went into the half time break 26 point leaders.
Over the last few months the Eagles have rarely been in such a good position. Perhaps they thought that they had done enough and would roll over the Blues in the second half. In scenes reminiscent of last round's Dockers' game, the home side began to implode in the third quarter. Carlton zoned up well and the Eagles struggled to get the ball into their forward half. Rookie David Ellard did a wonderful job of blanketing Eagles' midfielder Matt Priddis, effectively preventing him from moving the ball out of the stoppages. Carlton dominated all the main statistics, winning the clearances, inside 50s and contested possessions. The game opened up as the quarter progressed and the Eagles kicked the next two goals. Chris Judd began to have more of an impact, and from this point on Carlton put the Eagles to the sword. They kicked the next four goals in a row to hit the front. Ryan Murphy rubbed salt into the wound with a goal just as the quarter finished. The Blues took a handy 11 point lead into the final term.
A last quarter blunder by the West Coast runner moving too close to the field of play saw Carlton awarded a free kick in front of goals. Eddie Betts made no mistake and the Blues marched away from their opponents. It was one-way traffic with Carlton going into the 50 meter arc 27 times to the Eagles' woeful 11 forward entries. In the end, it was a 59 point turnaround by the visitors who went on to win the match by 26 points.
Although the Eagles had their chances in front of goals, poor kicking cost them opportunities to take the game on and hit the front. Had the Eagles won this match they could have climbed two places off the bottom of the Ladder. Carlton improved their position by moving up to seventh spot, but look far from convincing to beat teams above them in the Finals.
Next round the two West Australian teams, the Eagles and the Dockers, meet in the Western Derby. Regardless of who is in front on the scoreboard at half time, both teams have shown recently that they are susceptible to a second half fade.
Scoreboard West Coast: 3.3 8.9 10.11 11.17 (83) Carlton: 2.5 4.7 11.16 15.19 (109) Best players West Coast: A Strijk, M LeCras, A Embley, M Rosa, B Ebert Carlton: K Simpson, A Carrazzo, C Judd, H Scotland, J Waite
Article last changed on Wednesday, July 28, 2010 - 7:03 AM EDT