HAWTHORN was staring down the barrel.
Scoreless, five goals behind and on the cusp on a fifth straight defeat after just 15 minutes. At that point, damage control might have been on Alastair Clarkson's mind – not the prospect of a stunning turnaround and 31-point win over Carlton.
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But the remarkable comeback, inspired by nine of the next 10 goals, helped the Hawks finally kickstart a lagging season with a rousing 14.5 (89) to 9.4 (58) win at Optus Stadium on Friday afternoon.
Tom Mitchell (28 disposals, eight tackles) and James Worpel (20 disposals, five tackles) were at the heartbeat of the seismic shift in momentum, with their work at the coal face consistently putting Hawthorn on the front foot after quarter-time.
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As the ball was fired forward, Jack Gunston (16 disposals, three goals) and Shaun Burgoyne (14 disposals, five score involvements) were on hand to capitalise with outstanding performances to ensure Hawthorn was able to snap its four-match losing streak.
Patrick Cripps (27 disposals, eight clearances) was prominent early, but like most of his Carlton teammates his influence faded the longer the match went as his side's growing finals chances suffered an untimely and regrettable blow.
The result suddenly levels both teams at 4-5 on the season, with the narrative of their respective campaigns now likely to shift just as rapidly as the score worm on Friday afternoon.
How did they turn that around?
Carlton was 31 points up. Hawthorn was scoreless, but just 45 minutes later the Hawks had kicked eight of nine goals and led comfortably at half-time. How did they do it? Well, they smashed the Blues in disposals (+38), clearances (+3), contested possessions (+9) and inside 50s (+7) throughout the second quarter. In all four statistical categories, Hawthorn had been soundly beaten throughout the opening term. The side's ability to turn things around in those particular areas was crucial, with James Worpel and Tom Mitchell leading the turnaround with their frenzied work in contested situations. Wiley veteran Shaun Burgoyne also had five score involvements for the quarter to help inspire the comeback.
Soft side exposed again for Blues
Carlton's inability to stop momentum under David Teague has been an issue that has long plagued the side. It was evident again on Friday, as the Blues conceded nine of 10 goals to see their early lead quickly evaporate. Remarkably, it was the 13th time in 20 games under Teague's watch that Carlton has conceded a 30-point swing within a match. The pressure told in the second quarter, when the normally unflappable Patrick Cripps twice spurned routine opportunities. The first saw him play-on from a set-shot, attempting to round the man on the mark, before failing to spot an unmarked Eddie Betts streaming towards goal and instead blazing away himself. It was frustrating football from a frustrated side.
New life in Hawks’ forward line
There was a lot to cheer on either side of half-time for Hawthorn fans, but nothing would have warmed the hearts more than Jarman Impey's goal in the third quarter. Returning from just over a year out of the game due to an ACL injury, Impey was shifted forward and showed glimpses of the quality that saw him lead the club's best and fairest count last season at the time he hurt his knee. His return was a further boost to Hawthorn's new-look attack on Friday afternoon. Luke Breust returned from a month out with a fractured jaw, Tim O'Brien came back into the side after missing one match with an ankle injury, while Jon Ceglar's inclusion following a toe problem enabled the Hawks to shift Ben McEvoy forward. The result was Jack Gunston, Breust, O'Brien and Impey combining for seven goals
CARLTON 5.1 6.2 7.4 9.4 (58)
HAWTHORN 2.0 8.3 11.4 14.5 (89)
Carlton: Casboult 3, Newnes 2, Martin 2, Cuningham, Cripps
Hawthorn: Gunston 3, Shiels 2, Smith 2, Breust 2, Day, O'Meara, O'Brien, Impey, Wingard
Carlton: Cripps, Weitering, Casboult, Curnow, Martin
Hawthorn: Mitchell, Worpel, Gunston, O'Meara, Burgoyne, Shiels, Breust