Jesse Motlop celebrates a goal during Carlton's clash against St Kilda in round 21, 2023. Picture: AFL Photos

CARLTON has rallied from 22 points down to extend its winning streak to seven games and climb up to fifth on the ladder with a stirring 19-point victory over St Kilda at Marvel Stadium on Sunday.

The triumph moves the Blues one step closer to securing their first finals berth in a decade, clinching seven straight wins for the first time since 2000.

SAINTS v BLUES Full match coverage and stats

The Blues' 10.13 (73) to 8.6 (54) come-from-behind victory came without Sam Walsh, Adam Cerra, Jack Silvagni, Matt Kennedy and Harry McKay, offering further reason for optimism for Michael Voss' troops.

For the Saints, the defeat comes after holding a 22-point half-time lead following a four-goals-to-one second term, before managing only one major in the second half. The loss means St Kilda has gone down in three of its past five games, sitting tenuously in seventh with three rounds to play.


Carlton kicked four goals to none in the final term to storm home, with majors from David Cuningham, Paddy Dow, Charlie Curnow and Blake Acres igniting the Blues supporters. 

The game was largely an armwrestle full of momentum swings, with St Kilda's tackling and pressure in the first half giving it the edge, but Carlton gained the ascendancy in the second half with 22 clearances to eight after half-time and 18-8 inside 50s in the final quarter.

Nic Newman maintained his excellent recent form with 35 disposals, while Zac Fisher had 32 touches on his return to the side off half-back. Acres was influential with 27 disposals and two goals, while Brownlow medallist Patrick Cripps had a game-high 11 clearances in his 24-disposal game.

Winger Mason Wood (36 disposals) and onballer Brad Crouch (31 disposals) were among St Kilda's best, along with backman Callum Wilkie (23 disposals including eight intercept possessions), who was matched up on Coleman Medal leader Curnow, who finished with only one goal.

St Kilda got the opening goal from Rowan Marshall slightly against the run of play, but little separated the two sides in the opening term. The Blues' aggressive ball movement was a feature early, with Fisher having 11 touches off half-back.


Curnow's workrate was also on show, taking five first-quarter marks and setting up Acres' goal with a smart, long pass. But it was the Saints three points ahead at the first break, with Jack Sinclair bouncing back from a heavy bump with Brodie Kemp to pinpoint a pass for Jack Higgins' set-shot major shortly prior to the siren.

St Kilda ramped up the pressure and pulled away in the second, kicking four goals to one, with Curnow kept possession-less while Fisher's influence was blunted. The Saints kicked three goals in a five-minute burst from the prolific Crouch, Dan Butler – with his second of the game after four last week against Hawthorn – and Max King.


Jesse Motlop pulled one back for Carlton, but St Kilda's pressure – represented by 52 first-half tackles to 33 – told with a Fisher turnover leading to Brad Hill setting up Mattaes Phillipou's goal as it held a 22-point half-time lead.

Blues ruck Tom De Koning produced something out of nothing with a quick snap for the much-needed first goal in the second half, but King responded with a strong mark and classy finish.

Carlton, though, started to get a stronghold around clearances (12-2 for the quarter), with Motlop's running goal and Matt Owies' major cutting the margin to eight points at the final change.


That margin was down to two points within a minute of the resumption with Cuningham's quick finish with a right-foot banana in traffic. The industrious Dow put the Blues ahead with a running goal early in the final term.

The Saints tried to respond, with Higgins hitting the post before Acres showed poise in the forward pocket to lay off for Curnow to snap truly, getting the Blues fans out of their seats.

Acres bounced a shot home from 50m out to seal the points for the in-form Blues.

Coleman leader kept to one, but influential
Curnow only managed the one goal to marginally extend his lead in the Coleman Medal race with three rounds to play, having been well held by Wilkie with help from Josh Battle. Curnow had just 10 touches but his influence was still important, particularly leading up high to provide two goal assists in near identical fashion, marking and wheeling on his penetrating right boot to find Acres in the first term and Owies in the third. His lone goal opened up a 12-point lead in the final term too. Curnow has 68 goals for the year, ahead of Adelaide's Taylor Walker with 63.


Return of the King
On the topic of spearheads, St Kilda has utilised makeshift key forwards for most of the year so the return of King for the first time since a shoulder injury sustained in round 17 was notable. The athletic tall forward lined up mostly on Jacob Weitering and managed two goals, coming in the second and third terms, both from set shots after marks. But King spurned a crucial chance late in the third quarter which would’ve extended St Kilda's lead to 13 points. Weitering finished with nine intercept possessions and three contested marks to arguably edge the battle.

Dow's stocks rise
Dow's career, as the 2017 AFL Draft No.3 pick, has long drawn equal fascination and frustration from Carlton supporters but in his second start in the 22 for the year he produced a display to re-establish his value. Dow, who has been the sub in five of seven games this season, got his chance in the absence of Adam Cerra, Sam Walsh and Matt Kennedy and finished with a season-high 22 disposals, including 10 contested possessions and the go-ahead goal in the final term. Dow also had some crucial touches around clearances in the final quarter in a promising performance.


ST KILDA          3.1     7.2     8.3       8.6 (54)
CARLTON          2.4     3.4     6.7     10.13 (73)

St Kilda: King 2, Butler 2, Phillipou, Marshall, Higgins, Crouch
Motlop 2, Acres 2, Owies, Martin, Dow, De Koning, C.Curnow, Cuningham

St Kilda: Crouch, Wood, Wilkie, Clark, Battle, Marshall, Clark
Newman, Fisher, Acres, Cripps, Weitering, Docherty, Dow 

St Kilda: Nil

St Kilda: Liam Stocker (replaced Mattaes Phillipou in third quarter)
Ed Curnow (replaced Lachie Fogarty in fourth quarter)

Crowd: 42,656 at Marvel Stadium