Charlie Curnow celebrates a goal in Carlton's match against Collingwood in R20, 2023. Picture: AFL Photos

CARLTON has beaten the seemingly unbeatable, seeing off ladder-leaders Collingwood by 17 points to make it six straight wins and - at least temporarily - move to fifth spot on the ladder.

A stunning five-goal second half from Charlie Curnow kept the Blues' streak alive as they won 14.9 (93) to Collingwood's inaccurate 10.16 (76) at a packed MCG.

MAGPIES v BLUES Full match coverage and stats

But the victory came at a cost. Arguably the best on ground across the first half, Blues midfielder Adam Cerra racked up 20 disposals and six clearances before being subbed off early in the third quarter with a hamstring concern.

Curnow finished the game with six goals from 15 disposals and five marks to move to 67 for the season, stretching his lead atop the Coleman Medal leaderboard and surpassing his tally from last season.

It was a worried start for Carlton, with Collingwood powerful out of stoppage, creating space in attack and dominating the air to quickly get out to a 14-point lead before the Blues could hit the scoreboard.


The Pies used short kicks to calmly move inside 50, exposing some disorganisation in the Carlton defence. But once the Blues found some territory, they were able to intercept the Pies' attempts to exit and turn up the pressure. By lowering their eyes going inside 50, Carlton was able to minimise the impact of interception kings Darcy Moore (16 disposals, 10 intercepts) and Nathan Murphy (13 disposals, nine intercepts).

Ill-discipline, however, did let Carlton down. Every time they grabbed control of the game, playing in the forward half and trapping Collingwood in defence, the Blues would give away the ball with unnecessary free kicks and 50m penalties.


Collingwood worked to stretch an undersized Carlton defence. Darcy Cameron (31 hitouts, 12 disposals, one goal) forced opposing rucks Marc Pittonet and Tom De Koning to defend grimly, Dan McStay (two goals, seven marks) exploited some mismatches on direct opponents, and when Mason Cox was subbed off due a lack of impact, Jeremy Howe was moved into attack in the final quarter and had his first multiple-goal game since 2016.

The Blues were only saved by some wayward shots on goal from the Pies. Beau McCreery missed two simple shots, as did Jamie Elliott, while some peppering in the third quarter failed to narrow the half-time margin.


A one-on-one match-up between Collingwood captain Darcy Moore and Curnow was entertaining all night as it ebbed and flowed. At times it was Moore's strong intercept marking on show, at others it was Curnow effectively finding the ground ball.

Meanwhile, at the other end, Jacob Weitering (18 disposals, 11 marks, 10 intercepts) had one of his best games for the season. Intercepting the ball beautifully, he was also ever-present on the desperate last line to set the standard for his fellow defenders.


Howe'd that happen?
The last time Jeremy Howe kicked three goals in a game was in round 10 in 2015 - ironically against Collingwood - and a late surge from the defender-turned-forward looked set to kick-start yet another Pies comeback. With Mason Cox unable to have an impact and subbed out of the game in the third quarter, Howe was spun forward to force Carlton's defence to remain accountable to several marking targets. In a team that struggled to find the goals all night, he was deadly in attack, kicking three majors in the final quarter to keep everyone on the edge of their seats.

Jeremy Howe celebrates a goal in Collingwood's game against Carlton in R20, 2023. Picture: AFL Photos

A hamstrung midfield 
Already without Sam Walsh due to a hamstring issue, Carlton lost its best player in the first half as Adam Cerra went down with the same injury early in the third quarter. Cerra was the architect through the middle of the ground for the Blues, gathering 20 disposals (nine contested), five inside 50s and six clearances to half time. Everything becomes that much harder for the Carlton midfield without its pair of gun mids.

Adam Cerra sits on the bench during Carlton's game against Collingwood in R20, 2023. Picture: AFL Photos

Releasing the pressure valve 
Every time Carlton seemed like it was going to really put the foot down in the first half and break down the well-oiled Collingwood machine, it would let itself down. First it was a double 50m penalty to Nathan Murphy that walked the Pies out of a defensive half it was struggling to exit, then it was another 50m penalty to send Dan McStay to the top of the goal square. It kept the door open for a Pies side that has proven time and time again that they are never out of a game.


COLLINGWOOD    3.4    4.6    6.11   10.16 (76)
CARLTON        3.4    7.5    10.6   14.9 (93) 
Howe 3, McStay 2, De Goey, Cameron, McCreery, J.Daicos, Adams
Carlton: Curnow 6, Martin 3, Motlop 2, McGovern, Owies, Cincotta

Collingwood: Moore, J.Daicos, Murphy, Howe, N.Daicos, De Goey
Carlton: Curnow, Cripps, Newman, Weitering, Motlop, Hollands, Cerra

Collingwood: Nil
Carlton: Adam Cerra (hamstring)

Collingwood: Will Hoskin-Elliott (replaced Mason Cox in the third quarter)
Carlton: Paddy Dow (replaced Adam Cerra in the third quarter)

Crowd: 86,785