September 25, 2022

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Collingwood has claimed a top-four spot and crushed Carlton’s finals dreams with another unlikely come-from-behind victory at the MCG.

The Blues — who were chasing their first finals berth since 2013 — led by 24 points at three-quarter-time after an eight-goal third term but Collingwood stormed home yet again to snatch a thrilling one-point win.

The result meant the Western Bulldogs advanced to the finals in eighth place courtesy of their earlier win over Hawthorn.

In Sunday’s twilight match, the Sydney Swans confirmed third place on the ladder with a 14-point victory over St Kilda at Docklands, leaving the Magpies in fourth position.

At the MCG, Collingwood star Jamie Elliott kicked a classic matchwinner for the second time this season as the Magpies prevailed 11.9 (75) to 10.14 (74).

Elliott had the 88,287 spectators — the biggest AFL crowd since the 2019 grand final — stunned as he slotted a running goal at the 26-minute mark, following on from a miracle major by teammate Beau McCreery a few minutes earlier.

The Blues had opportunities to grab back the lead but were denied by the Magpies’ steely defence, leaving Carlton players to slump to the ground in agony when the siren sounded.

“I just can’t believe, I really can’t, we’ve found another way to win,” said Magpies coach Craig McRae, who was seen wildly celebrating Elliott’s match-winning goal.

“There will be a footage of me getting carried away on the bench.

“I tell my players to live in the moment, so I”ve got to do that and role model that.

“I like to be really measured when things aren’t working for us and then show the emotion when things are.

“I was celebrating like the fans were.”

The Magpies face a tantalising qualifying final at the MCG against minor premiers Geelong.

They will enter the finals after winning 12 of their last 13 matches having kept their extraordinary record in close games alive.

After finishing 17th last season, Collingwood will have a double chance in the finals in McRae’s first year as coach.

The Blues are left with serious heartbreak after being in the top eight all season until the final day.

They kicked only two goals outside of their third-quarter burst.

“They’re devastated,” Carlton coach Michael Voss said of his Blues players.

“We didn’t want this season to end, we feel like we had more in us and clearly when we were in the position we were, we wanted to play finals footy.

“When it came down to those key moments, we couldn’t get it done and it’s going to hurt for a bit.”

The Blues started in nervous fashion and missed easy shots as Collingwood’s pressure overwhelmed them.

Carlton rebuilt, however, and their 8.3 return was the first time since the famous 1970 grand final they had kicked eight goals in a third quarter against Collingwood at the MCG, but it was ultimately not enough.

Two Carlton AFL players embrace as they celebrate a goal.
Charlie Curnow (right) and teammate Harry McKay show their joy during the Blues’ eight-goal third term.(Getty Images: Daniel Pockett)

Blues captain Patrick Cripps willed his team into the contest and was named best-on-ground, despite Carlton losing.

His stat line of 35 disposals and 12 clearances was impressive, but his courage was inspiring after waving away trainers following a big friendly-fire hit from Jack Silvagni.

A Carlton AFL player scuffles with a Collingwood opponent.
Carlton’s Matthew Owies (left) scuffles with Collingwood’s Scott Pendlebury.(Getty Images/AFL Photos: Dylan Burns)

“Even when they (Collingwood) started to close, I still felt quite confident we could still get it done, but just not for long enough,” Voss said.

“We’ve probably shown we’re somewhere between seven and 10 [on the ladder]. Well, that’s not where we want to be, we want to be better than that.

“The reality is we’re not here just to make finals, we’re here to be a top-four footy club and we want to be sustainably great.”

The Blues were forced to win the sudden-death showdown without star midfielder Sam Walsh, who was a late withdrawal due to back soreness.

Bulldogs take down Hawks

A Western Bulldogs AFL player holds the ball in front of a Hawthorn opponent.
Bulldogs captain Marcus Bontempelli takes possession of the ball against the Hawks.(Getty Images: Steve Bell)

The Bulldogs had kept themselves in the finals picture with a tense 23-point victory over Hawthorn in Launceston.

Coming into the final-round clash needing a win to have a chance of replacing Carlton in eighth spot, the Bulldogs trailed by 12 points at quarter-time but came home with a wet sail.

The 12.15 (87) to 10.4 (64) result put the Bulldogs level on 48 competition points with Carlton but ahead on the ladder on percentage.

The win sets up an away elimination clash against Fremantle in week one of the finals.

Roarke Smith picked up three goals for the Bulldogs, including two crucial scores in the final quarter to give his side breathing space.

Aaron Naughton also kicked three while rookie Sam Darcy was ultra impressive, kicking two majors including his first at the top level.

Dylan Moore gave Hawthorn the best possible start in the final quarter with a goal inside the first minute to reduce the margin to just four points.

But the Bulldogs rallied, keeping their opposition to just nine points for the term.

The Bulldogs dominated clearances (49-22) and inside 50s (71-39) but struggled to translate the possession to points at a blustery University of Tasmania Stadium.

In his final match for the Hawks, dual-premiership winner Ben McEvoy notched two goals, including the opener when he was fed a handpass from the first touch of debutant Jack Saunders.

Jack Gunston kicked four for Hawthorn, while James Sicily was outstanding with a match-high 33 possessions.

The Bulldogs dominated territory early and kicked the opening two goals before Hawthorn went on a run of four goals with the breeze for a 12-point lead at quarter-time.

Gunston chipped in with two majors for the quarter, including an impressive snap after pinching the ball in traffic.

In a pulsating second quarter, Darcy got his side back in front with back-to-back goals in the space of a few minutes.

Hawthorn kept pace, responding when Saunders slotted his maiden major, before Bulldog Cody Weightman got his team’s nose in front by three points at the main break.

The Bulldogs dominated inside 50s in a low-scoring third quarter, taking a 10-point lead into the last break in front of a crowd of 13,105.

Swans tame Saints

A Sydney Swans AFL player holds the ball in both hands during a match.
Lance Franklin kicked two goals for the Swans in their triumph over the Saints.(Getty Images/AFL Photos: Morgan Hancock)

Sydney fought past St Kilda to clinch third place but fall just short of securing a home qualifying final.

Victory guaranteed the Swans a double chance but they were unable to pull off a big enough winning margin to leapfrog second-placed Melbourne.

They led by 28 points in the third quarter but had to hold off a late Saints surge before prevailing 13.10 (88) to 11.8 (74).

The Swans will instead face the Demons in Melbourne.

Sydney will also have a nervous wait for the finals fixture release after livewire Tom Papley was concussed.

Papley was substituted for Sam Wicks in the second quarter after colliding with teammate Lance Franklin and hitting his head on the Docklands turf.

If Sydney’s qualifying final against Melbourne is played on Thursday, September 1, Papley will not be available as he would not have completed his 12-day concussion protocol.

James Rowbottom was excellent for the Swans, collecting 24 disposals, six clearances and a goal while Isaac Heeney (23 disposals, two goals), Chad Warner (20 disposals, one goal) and Will Hayward (three goals) were influential.

In his final match, Saints midfielder and former Swan Dan Hannebery turned back the clock, racking up 30 disposals and seven clearances, while Jack Sinclair, Ben Long, Seb Ross and Jack Steele were also busy.

Max King booted four first-half goals and finished with five straight.

The Saints’ faint finals hopes were effectively ended when the Western Bulldogs beat Hawthorn, despite Carlton’s loss to Collingwood, given their poor percentage.

Despite being up against it, St Kilda initially went goal for goal with the Swans before Sydney kicked away in the second term.

The Swans looked set to go on with it and challenge Melbourne’s percentage but the Saints would not go away and fought their way back into the match late in the third term.

The Saints went on a late run, including booting four consecutive goals, to twice draw within seven points.

But on both occasions, Will Hayward put a dagger in the Saints’ hearts with classy, clutch snaps.

Luckless Saint Hunter Clark (groin) was substituted for the retiring Dean Kent at half-time while Josh Battle was concussed in the third quarter.

ABC/AAP

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