CARLTON is hanging around.
If it's been a season of 'what ifs?' and regrettable moments to this point, there is still a chance to make amends. The club's gritty comeback victory over Collingwood on Sunday, turning a 24-point deficit into a 29-point victory, keeps its faint finals hopes alive.
MAGPIES v BLUES Full match coverage and stats
The Blues ended the 13.13 (91) to 9.8 (62) win over their old enemies just a game outside the top-eight, albeit with a significant percentage difference to another arch rival in the Bombers.
But it's hope all the same, hope inspired by the sheer genius of Sam Walsh. If his 38-disposal, five-tackle and five-clearance performance had been memorable to begin with, his remarkable final quarter goal to seal the team's win was the cherry on top.
It was part of a Carlton final quarter that yielded six unanswered goals, with Coleman Medal leader Harry McKay delivering four of them himself, as the Blues completely overwhelmed their wilting opponents.
Jordan De Goey's 31 disposals and 12 marks, along with Chris Mayne's 26 touches and 10 grabs, had initially put Collingwood in a position of control, but interim coach Robert Harvey watched as his side's lead dissipated over the course of the game.
It had hardly been the most inspiring start regardless, with both sides plagued by woeful attacking inefficiency in its early stages. It took teenage forward Ollie Henry, previously without an AFL goal, to finally deliver a pair of pinpoint shots and help open a 17-point Collingwood lead in the first term.
Jack Martin eventually put Carlton on the board after the quarter-time siren, but it did little to shift the momentum. The Pies piled on five of the first six goals on either side of the interval, grabbing complete command of the contest.
Amid that rush came Henry's third, before the Blues – falling four goals behind midway through the second quarter – eventually set about stopping the rot. Successive majors would cut the deficit to just 10 by half-time, with the Magpies' concerns compounded by Josh Thomas leaving the game with concussion.
The game was following a pattern, and it continued after the main break. Back-to-back Collingwood goals swelled the margin to as much as 20 points, but back-to-back Carlton goals soon followed. Tom De Koning handed one to Trent Bianco on a plate with a wayward kick out of defence, then converted himself at the other end just minutes later.
McKay, a peripheral figure through the contest's first three quarters, was bound to have his say eventually and snapped truly just seconds into the final term to close the margin to two points. It set up a grandstand finish, as the Blues looked to capitalise on one of the game's many momentum swings.
This one, however, would be too strong for Collingwood to overcome. Eddie Betts snapped, Walsh delivered his moment of magic and McKay produced a pair of darts from beyond 50m as Carlton poured on six unanswered goals to not only claim the lead for the first time but surge clear.
Walsh dazzles to inspire Blues
There had been something intangible lacking to Carlton's display through the first three quarters on Sunday. The effort was there as the Blues reduced a 24-point deficit to eight by the final change, but the class wasn't evident. Enter Sam Walsh. The club's extraordinary third-year midfielder, producer of much of the effort that had been on offer early, then turned provider of the quality. He shrugged two tackles, regained his balance magnificently, then finished from deep inside the boundary to help Carlton to victory and cap another brilliant individual performance. Three more Brownlow votes are coming his way.
Silvagni's touching tribute to Serge
It had been a tough week for Jack Silvagni and the Carlton family as a whole, with his grandfather and Blues club legend Sergio passing away at the age of 83. But young Jack honoured his legacy with a fine acknowledgment on Sunday, following his second quarter goal with a kiss of his black armband and a gesture towards the sky. Silvagni was mobbed by his teammates after slotting the set-shot, with the Blues team keen to produce a fitting tribute to the two-time premiership player and 239-game great. Silvagni's spectacular grab late in the game, leaping over Isaac Quaynor, capped a terrific individual performance from the improving forward.
Pies buoyed by Henry's hat-trick
Teenage forward Ollie Henry had never kicked a goal heading into Sunday's contest. But by half-time, the pick No.17 from last year's NAB AFL Draft had three to his name. One of few on the field able to find his radar in front of goal during the game's early stages, the versatile 186cm prospect delivered pinpoint accuracy on a trio of difficult set-shots to give Collingwood the early ascendency at the MCG. Having shown glimpses of his potential throughout his first four senior games, you can consider his fifth a breakout performance. Perhaps it will be followed by a NAB AFL Rising Star nomination early next week.
COLLINGWOOD 3.2 6.4 9.5 9.8 (62)
CARLTON 1.3 4.6 7.9 13.13 (91)
Collingwood: Henry 3, Elliott, Hoskin-Elliott, Mihocek, Sidebottom, Cameron, Bianco
Carlton: McKay 4, Betts 2, Martin, Stocker, Silvagni, Kennedy, Williams, De Koning, Walsh
Collingwood: Noble, Henry, Mayne, Crisp, De Goey
Carlton: Walsh, Kennedy, Dow, Martin, Stocker, Silvagni, McKay
Collingwood: Thomas (concussion)
Collingwood: Poulter (replaced Thomas)
Carlton: Fogarty (unused)
Crowd: 0 at the MCG