Highlights: Richmond v Carlton
The Tigers and Blues clash in round 21
Mitch Robinson's ferocity epitomised Carlton's comeback victory at the MCG on Saturday
IN A SEASON of great uncertainty, one thing is certain after an enthralling afternoon of football at the MCG. Carlton can still make the finals.
The Blues pulled off their grittiest win of the year on Saturday, beating Richmond by 10 points at the MCG.
The Blues trailed by five goals at quarter-time before dominating thereafter to win 16.10 (106) to 14.12 (96) to stay in ninth place and remain within striking distance of Port Adelaide.
If the Blues can beat Essendon at the MCG on Saturday night, they will travel to AAMI Stadium in the final round of the season to play Port in what will be a virtual elimination final.
The Blues were spanked everywhere across the park in the first term, but they responded superbly after the first break, with Mitch Robinson and Brock McLean leading the way with spark and aggression. McLean booted three goals and helped the Blues get back to within five points at half-time.
The two sides combined for 19 goals in the first half, but the second half was a slog. The Blues hit the lead early, the Tigers held sway midway through the term, but two late goals to Carlton forward Levi Cabsoult – both from contested marks – gave the Blues a lead at the final change they would not relinquish.
Casboult finished with three goals and could claim to be the matchwinner for his side. But praise for this win also goes to Blues coach Mick Malthouse, who after a difficult week of being told the Blues had regressed in his first year in charge, pulled some key moves.
The first was Ed Curnow on Richmond skipper Trent Cotchin, who he kept to just 14 touches. Bryce Gibbs played neither defence nor midfield but instead across half-forward, where he kicked two goals and had 23 disposals.
At quarter-time he moved Michael Jamison onto Jack Riewoldt, who had kicked two goals and had a hand in several others in the first term. Riewoldt was barely a factor after that and ended the game with a sore knee.
He also moved Denis Armfield on to the rampant Brandon Ellis at the first change, as well as Jarrad Waite on to Tyrone Vickery, both to great effect.
Andrew Walker (27 possessions), Kade Simpson (25) and Marc Murphy (23) also played their part in a win that will be savoured by the Blues for some time. A 44-36 edge in contested possessions against the side that has led the AFL in that category for the past month will also be pleasing.
"They got some very easy goals, we needed to close that down," he said.
"In the first quarter we didn't get it in there (inside 50) enough, on our terms, but when we did. I just thought if we stuck to it long enough and changed some things around it might turn for us."
The loss is not catastrophic for the finals-bound Tigers, who let the Brisbane Lions back into the contest last week before hanging on for the win, but who could not put the clamps on the Blues this time around after quarter-time. But it is disappointing all the same. The Tigers of new became the Tigers of old after the first change.
Brett Deledio, Shaun Grigg and Daniel Jackson played well for the Tigers, but their work rate dropped alarmingly when the acid was on. And Dustin Martin, who reportedly knocked back a lucrative contract extension during the week, could not have picked a worst week to turn in a putrid 10-possession performance.
"They hit us incredibly hard after that quarter-time break. They obviously got a fair rocket and they came out and played some hard footy. Credit where it is due. They were better than us during that part of the game."
The Tigers' hopes of a top four berth now look remote at best. They'll beat Greater Western Sydney next week at Skoda Stadium before finishing the home and away season against Essendon at the MCG. The best they can now hope for is a home elimination to start the finals.
Jarrad Waite marks in front of Alex Rance during Carlton's brilliant win. Picture: AFL Media
RICHMOND 8.2 10.3 12.7 14.12 (96)
CARLTON 3.2 9.4 13.4 16.10 (106)
Richmond: Vickery 3, Riewoldt 2, Ellis 2, Petterd, Vlastuin, Grigg, Jackson, McGuane, Maric, Rance
Carlton: McLean 3, Henderson 3, Casboult 3, Gibbs 2, Menzel 2, Robinson, Simpson, Tuohy
Richmond: Deledio, Jackson, Astbury, Conca, Foley
Carlton: McLean, Simpson, Jamison, Murphy, Robinson, Gibbs, Casboult, Armfield
Richmond: Matt White (soreness) replaced in selected side by Matt McDonough, Cotchin (knee), Petterd (left ankle), Riewoldt (right knee)
Richmond: Dylan Grimes replaced by Shane Tuck in the third quarter
Carlton: Josh Bootsma replaced by Nick Graham in the third quarter
Umpires: McBurney, Wenn, McInerney
Official crowd: 60,825 at the MCG