Hawthorn hammer Pies by 38 points to edge closer to AFL flag
An explosive fourth quarter from Hawthorn has sealed a 38-point win over Collingwood on Friday night with the Hawks emphatically stamping themselves as flag favourites, while sending Collingwood’s season into disarray.
It might have been the first Friday night of September but Melbourne turned on a typically wintery evening, with strong winds and a rain-affected surface ensuring a tight, hard-fought opening to the AFL finals in front of over 85,000 at the MCG.
The opening exchanges were boisterous, and Collingwood seemed more interested in their attack on their opposition rather than the ball, with Chris Tarrant singling out Hawthorn star forward Lance Franklin for particularly rough treatment.
Former coach and current Channel Seven commentator Mick Malthouse labelled Collingwood’s tactics “uncharacteristic” and they ultimately ended up unsuccessful.
As the quarter wore on, Hawthorn’s superior foot skills and focus on the winning the ball first began to tell, and they went into the first break 15 points in front, with only some wayward kicking preventing the margin from being greater.
When Jack Gunston goaled early in the second term alarm bells were beginning to sound for the black and white, before goals to Travis Cloke and Andrew Krakouer led a Collingwood revival and they hit the lead late in the quarter.
But a three-goal flurry from Hawthorn, punctuated by a goal to Franklin after the siren, saw Hawthorn storm into half time with an 18-point lead.
Collingwood had, to their credit, turned up prepared for a contest and they continued to fight hard in the third quarter.
An early goal to Hawks ruckman David Hale had extended the lead to four goals before Cloke and Krakouer once again tried to spark the Pies but the game had an air of inevitability about it as three-quarter time drew near.
Five goals in eight minutes meant the Hawks would take a four-goal lead into the final stanza.
Any hopes the black and white faithful had of a comeback were swiftly extinguished in the opening eight minutes of the fourth quarter.
Goals to Ellis, Hodge, Roughhead and Franklin, who finished with four goals, put the icing on the cake for Hawthorn.
The win was another glowing endorsement of the Hawks’ pinpoint kicking game that has dissected all and sundry in 2012 and with the possibility of injured stars Jordan Lewis and Brent Guerra returning after the fortnight’s rest, it will take a major upset to deny Clarkson’s men a grand final appearance now.
Collingwood, on the other hand, have had serious problems for months now and a brave but ultimately unsuccessful performance has done nothing to lift Nathan Buckley’s men out of their malaise.
They must now regroup to face either the Eagles or Kangaroos next week, and have problems that need solving all over the park if they are to survive beyond the second week of the finals.