Can the Blues play finals in 2020?
Carlton’s victory over the Bulldogs reminded us once again that, at their best, they can mix it most teams in the AFL. In the top eight for the first time since 2013, they have gotten there on the back of victories over three quality teams. Given they sit just two games behind Port Adelaide, what they would give to have their first halves against Melbourne and St Kilda all over again. The second halves of both matches proving they were more than capable of beating both teams.
How the Game Was Won
After their slow start against the Saints proved the difference last week, the Blues were quickly out of the blocks on Sunday night. Winning six of the first seven centre clearances, they quickly set up camp inside forward fifty. With their tall and small forwards harassing and tackling their opponents into submission, their pressure proved irrepressible.
Despite this early damage, the Bulldogs slowly worked their way into the contest and would have been reasonably happy to trail by just 18-points at the first change. Over the next two quarters momentum would swing back and forth with Carlton threatening to pull away on a number of occasions only to see the Bulldogs drag themselves back into the match.
A goal to Marcus Bontempelli seemed telling in the shadows of three quarter time with the Bulldogs within touching distance. As close as they were, there was little room for error if they were to chase down the front running Blues. Which meant that Laitham Vandermeer’s missed chance to close the gap to 12-points proved costly.
As is often the case, Carlton quickly compounded the miss when Jack Martin kicked them 23-points clear. This time there would be no Bulldog response. Harry McKay, Levi Casboult and Mitch McGovern goaling to wrap up the contest before Eddie Betts put the icing on top to bring up the Blues century and see them home by 52 points.
What the Coaches Said
David Teague was most pleased by his teams ability to do what was needed when things weren’t going well. “What I loved was the players’ courage,” Teague said. “I wouldn’t say the game was played exactly how we wanted it – it spent a bit too much time in our back half – but when we got it through and we got some speed in the ball we thought our forwards worked really well together.
“Our tackling and our pressure is a great indicator to where we are mentally and how switched on we are. Our ability to win the contest early, get it in deep and then our forwards’ pressure. We had a lot of guys across the field that won or broke even in their position which is how we want to play.”
Luke Beveridge lamented the defeat but wanted his team to turn their attention to bouncing back next week. “We’ve got to dust ourselves off. We play in five days and we’ve got our full squad up here,” he said. “We’ve got to just keep presenting. There might be one or two boys who get an opportunity this Friday.
“It’s only up the road from the hotel but when you get here, you’ve got to be totally ready and we weren’t. So it’s up to all of us to make sure that we stimulate the energy levels to be ready make sure we swim against the rip when they’re trying to take us out to sea.”
CARLTON 5.2 8.5 10.6 16.7 (103)
WESTERN BULLDOGS 2.1 5.2 7.6 7.9 (51)
Carlton: Betts 4, McKay 3, Gibbons 2, Martin 2, McGovern 2, Curnow, Newnes, Casboult
Western Bulldogs: Vandermeer 2, Smith, Dale, Lipinski, Wallis, Bontempelli
Carlton: Setterfield, McKay, Kennedy, Curnow, Martin, Gibbons, Petrevski-Seton
Western Bulldogs: Smith, Liberatore, Macrae, English, Bontempelli
Carlton: Cripps (shoulder), Murphy (hip)
Western Bulldogs: Nil