Freo no match for bouncing Blues
Fremantle 3.0 4.2 7.7 12.13 (85)
Carlton 5.5 7.10 11.16 16.19 (115)
Fremantle: Ballantyne 2, Crowley 2, Sandilands 2, Pavlich, Clarke, Silvagni, Mzungu, Johnson, Barlow
Carlton: Betts 6, Gibbs, Armfield, Davies, Thornton, Walker, Judd, Garlett, Ellard, Yarran, Laidler
Fremantle: Barlow, Ballantyne, Silvagni, Broughton, Pavlich
Carlton: Judd, Gibbs, Betts, Murphy, Yarran, Thornton, Walker
Carlton: Bret Thornton (face)
Fremantle: Nick Lower replaced by Clayton Hinkley in the third quarter.
Carlton: Andrew Carrazzo replaced by Zach Tuohy at three-quarter-time.
Umpires: Farmer, Stevic, Chamberlain
Official crowd: 34,737 at Patersons Stadium
Carlton has kept its top-four ambitions on track and effectively ended Fremantle’s finals chances, notching a 30-point win at Patersons Stadium on Saturday afternoon.
Carlton had lost three of its last four matches against Fremantle – and 12 of its last 14 since 2002 – but recent history proved irrelevant in the 16.19 (115) to 12.13 (85) win, Carlton’s fourth on the trot.
Star Fremantle ruckman Aaron Sandilands returned from a toe injury, but his presence was not enough to prevent a stoppage domination from the Blues, who won the clearances 43-25.
Star midfielders Chris Judd (34 disposals), Marc Murphy (31) and Bryce Gibbs (29) headlined a long list of Carlton players who ran harder than their often stagnant opponents to set up the important win.
Small forward Eddie Betts kicked four goals in the first half and finished with six to be the dominant forward on the ground, with half-back Chris Yarran (17 disposals and five rebound 50s) superb on return to his home state.
The Blues controlled the football, winning 64 more disposals than the home team, and the contrast in kicking efficiency was stark, with Fremantle regularly butchering the ball going forward.
With his team’s season on the line, Mark Harvey rolled the dice with Sandilands, and he finished with 15 possessions and 24 hit-outs in his second match since round 10.
He booted two goals in the final quarter as Fremantle dragged a game-high 57-point margin back to a more respectable 30 points, which Harvey said flattered his team.
The Blues wasted chances in the first half, entering the main break with a 26-point lead despite having had 17 scoring shots to six.
Still, it was hard to see a way back into the game for Fremantle, which struggled to identify strong forward targets, using defenders Alex Silvagni and Luke McPharlin in attack at times.
Midfielder Michael Barlow (32 disposals) and forward Hayden Ballantyne, who booted 2.4 and had 23 disposals, were Fremantle’s main contributors, while Ryan Crowley held star Blue Heath Scotland to 16 possessions.
It was another enormous game from Judd, who did his best work inside, winning 17 of his 34 possessions in contests. The Carlton skipper also had a game-high eight clearances and kicked a superb snap goal early in the third quarter, bursting through a pack of four stationary Fremantle opponents. Murphy won less contested ball but was creative with his use, going inside 50 six times. Both midfielders were at their best when setting up the Blues’ half-time lead.
Yarran was electrifying off half-back, regularly bursting out of traffic to set up Carlton’s forward attacks. His polish exiting the Blues’ defensive 50 only highlighted Fremantle’s lacklustre forward entries.
Kade Simpson’s first quarter was a big reason for the Blues’ fast start, winning 10 possessions for the term and setting up two goals, to Dennis Armfield and Betts, who was a constant threat.
Fremantle chose to run Chris Mayne with Judd from the second quarter on, while Tendai Mzungu went to Murphy. Post-match, Harvey was hopeful both players learned some lessons about what is required to be an elite midfielder.
Inclusion Ryan Crowley loomed as a match-up for Judd, but Fremantle chose to target Heath Scotland after the Carlton half-back had 32 possessions, 12 marks and two goals last week. Crowley restricted him to one disposal in the first quarter and 16 for the game in a fiery match-up.
Stats that mattered
Fremantle has not lost the tackle count since round seven, but its 76-71 advantage against the Blues on Saturday was more indicative of an inability to win the football, losing the possession count 400-336 and chasing opponents all day.
Carlton’s supreme ball-use resulted in a 103-71 advantage in uncontested marks, controlling the football for the best part of four quarters. It all started in the middle, however, with 15 Carlton players winning at least one clearance in what amounted to a midfield lesson.
What it means
Fremantle faces an improbable task to make the finals for the second straight year. To have any hope of making the eight, it will have to win at least two – and probably all three – of its remaining games, against North Melbourne (Etihad Stadium), Collingwood (Patersons Stadium) and the Western Bulldogs (Etihad Stadium). But if Essendon and the Sydney Swans beat the Bulldogs and Richmond this weekend respectively, Mark Harvey’s men will need to hope for upset results to go against the Bombers and Swans in later rounds.
Despite the win, the Blues still face an uphill battle to make the top four. They face a tough remaining schedule, but even if they can win all their remaining games, it may not be enough to secure the double chance. The bye and West Coast’s friendly run home means the Hawks or Eagles would also need to slip up for Carlton to finish in the top four.
QUARTER BY QUARTER
Freo captain Matthew Pavlich gave his side an immediate lift with a goal inside 30 seconds. Eddie Betts was quick to reply though, booting two goals within five minutes. The Blues were pouring on the pressure early and Dennis Armfield’s goal put them further ahead. Goals to Zac Clarke and Alex Silvagni provided the hosts a quick response. But Marcus Davies’ first career major and a Bryce Gibbs goal after the siren gave Carlton back the momentum. They dominated the clearances for the quarter 18-4.
Carlton by 17
Carlton wasted early chances to move further ahead, missing their first five scoring shots of the quarter. Fremantle struggled for much of the quarter to get the ball out of their defensive half. Despite the Blues’ pressure, their first goal didn’t come until the 18-minute mark, when Betts converted a set shot. Fremantle’s only major for the quarter went to Hayden Ballantyne deep into time-on. But Betts’ kicked his fourth late in the quarter and the Blues went to half-time in control.
Carlton by 26
The hosts were desperate for an early goal but Ballantyne and Clarke wasted early chances. Those misses proved costly as Carlton immediately added to their lead through an impressive Chris Judd goal. Bret Thornton and Jeff Garlett majors then put Carlton up by 42. Michael Johnson’s booted his first goal against the run of play and Freo got the next two through Ryan Crowley and Tendai Mzungu to get back in the game. But Andrew Walker’s stunning mark and goal in the final seconds dented any hope of a comeback.
Carlton by 33
Betts looked dangerous throughout the game and he put the result beyond doubt with two goals within six minutes. Goals to WA-born youngsters David Ellard and Chris Yarran appeared to have opened the floodgates. But Ballantyne and Aaron Sandilands responded with goals against the run of play. Jeremy Laidler’s major got Carlton’s lead back to 50 points before late goals to Michael Barlow, Crowley and Sandilands made the final score more respectable.
Carlton by 30
NEXT FOUR: THE FIXTURE AHEAD
Fremantle: Freo faces North Melbourne at Etihad next week before hosting Collingwood in round 23. It finishes the season with another trip to Melbourne to face the Bulldogs.
Carlton: The Blues must overcome a tough schedule to finish in the top four. They face Hawthorn at Etihad next Friday, have the bye in round 23 and finish against the in-form Saints.
DREAM TEAM HIGHLIGHT
Fremantle: Hayden Ballantyne ($274,800) was Fremantle’s best with 124 points, while Michael Barlow ($376,200) was next best with 117.
Carlton: Bryce Gibbs ($418,800) starred for the Blues with 139 points, 83 of which came in the first half. Andrew Walker ($288,300) was next best with 113.