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Finally, Demons' top-eight dream is over

Highlights: Carlton v Melbourne The Blues and Demons clash in round 22
MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - AUGUST 21: Liam Jones of the Blues is tackled by Tom McDonald of the Demons during the 2016 AFL Round 22 match between the Carlton Blues and the Melbourne Demons at the Melbourne Cricket Ground on August 21, 2016 in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Michael Willson/AFL Media)
Liam Jones tries to burst through a Tom McDonald tackle

MELBOURNE'S finals hopes are over after being totally outplayed by Carlton in a dispiriting 20-point loss at the MCG on Sunday.

Needing to win its remaining two games against the Blues and Geelong to keep the pressure on eighth-placed North Melbourne, who were two games and 2.8 per cent clear on the ladder, the Demons faltered under the pressure.

The Blues ended a nine-game losing streak in the 11.12 (78) to 7.16 (58) victory.

Carlton led from start to finish as Melbourne struggled to play catch-up football with the weather conditions worsening throughout the afternoon.

Five talking points: Blues v Demons

Star midfielder Bryce Gibbs was dominant for the Blues with 26 first-half disposals (he finished with 33), to go with seven clearances and six inside 50s, playing an instrumental role in Carlton's breakthrough win.

Not to be outdone, Patrick Cripps was strong over the ball in greasy conditions and finished with 30 disposals (19 contested), 11 clearances and 12 tackles.

Small forward Dylan Buckley made the most of his opportunities with three goals, late inclusion Nick Graham nailed two goals at important stages in the second and third quarters and Kade Simpson (24 touches) typically held firm in defence.

"I think it's a good reward for perseverance," Blues coach Brendon Bolton said post-match. 

"I think we know we've been in some games against some quality opposition, but just gone down by a few goals against Sydney, Hawthorn, West Coast, so there was growth there, but we weren't actually getting any reward."

The Blues turned a 15-point quarter-time lead into 18 points at half-time as an inaccurate Melbourne floundered.

The Demons players were fumbly, made poor decisions with the footy and were led to the ball far too often.

The usually cool-headed Bernie Vince was the classic example, getting chased down from behind in the first quarter which gifted the Blues a goal, and putting his teammates under pressure with a number of uncharacteristic errors.

Melbourne coach Paul Roos said his side's inability to match Carlton's hardened mindset at the start of the contest was the difference in the game. 

"I thought early on they were bigger and stronger around the contest and that was the difference," Roos said. 

"We dropped four goals behind and there were some poor skill errors, so we couldn't get back. The effort was there for three quarters, but we couldn't get back because we kept turning the ball over."

Young midfielder Clayton Oliver (24 disposals) was an exception, showing his teammates how to handle the ball in slippery conditions, as was Jayden Hunt, who continues to make his case for a NAB AFL Rising Star nomination after another excellent performance.

In-form midfielder Dom Tyson topped Melbourne's stat sheet with 30 disposals, while Nathan Jones (29) and Jack Viney (27) fought it out all afternoon.

However, with plenty riding on the result, the Demons' inability to rise to the occasion was baffling, as their three-game winning streak, including a win over ladder-leader Hawthorn in that time, became a thing of the past.

They also missed the opportunity to win four successive games for the first time since 2006, coincidentally the last time they made finals.

Jack Watts copped a poke in the eye from Patrick Cripps in the first quarter and was patched up to return to the game. Dean Kent was sore for much of the game after sustaining a corked thigh and ankle complaint in the same second-quarter incident, but finished the game on the field.

Carlton: The Blues had two late withdrawals before the bounce but Bolton was hopeful both Jack Silvagni (soreness) and Sam Kerridge (illness) would be available against the Bombers. Ed Curnow sustained a knock to his left knee in the final term, with Bolton holding out hope the injury is not too serious: "Fingers crossed he's OK, as he’s been a warrior for us this year," Bolton said.

With its finals hopes now dead and buried, Melbourne has a trip down to Geelong next Saturday to look forward to. The Blues round out their season against old foe Essendon at the MCG next Saturday afternoon.

CARLTON                 4.5   7.8   10.10   11.12 (78)
MELBOURNE            2.2   4.8   6.10     7.16 (58)

Buckley 3, Graham 2, Wright, Everitt, Cripps, Sumner, Jones, Phillips
Melbourne: VandenBerg, Hunt, Hogan, Oliver, Bugg, Neal-Bullen, Gawn

Cripps, Gibbs, Buckley, Docherty, Simpson
Melbourne: Tyson, Viney, Hunt, Jones, Oliver

Carlton: Silvagni (soreness) replaced in the selected side by Graham, Kerridge (illness) replaced in the selected side by Everitt, Buckley (head), Curnow (left knee)
Melbourne: Watts (right eye), Kent (right leg) 

Reports: Nil 

Umpires: Donlon, Rosebury, Mitchell

Official crowd: 40,693 at MCG