Christian Petracca

Round 9 – Carlton V Melbourne

Liam Chambers

The Blues launch operation warp speed

After last week’s thriller against Geelong, the Dees were again facing an inform side vying for a top four position. Fans were expecting another tight game with an abundance of goals.

However, the first score of the game didn’t come until the nine minute mark when Sam Walsh took a hand pass and snapped an around the corner from 40m to put Carlton in front.
A couple of minutes later, the hosts were two ahead when Marc Pittonet slotted a 45m set shot.  Next up was Jack Martin, who marked the ball less than 10m from goal.
The Blues had their tails up and Melbourne was struggling to counter the attacks.

The situation was beginning to look precarious for the Dees when Harry McKay ran out to take a contested mark. He went back and easily converted his 50m set shot. To add to the bleak atmosphere, the rain had set in, further dampening the spirits of the Demon faithful.

Towards the end of the term, Melbourne at last started to put some pressure on Carlton’s defence but was unable to penetrate the Blue fortress. Then, in another cruel blow and against the run of play, Tom De Koning took a difficult contested mark, despite the wet conditions. He drilled the 45m kick and extended the margin to thirty points at quarter time.

The Dees claw back some momentum

When play resumed, Carlton also resumed control, keeping their guests goalless and pointless in the process. When Matthew Owies marked and hit the target from 35m out, Melbourne’s outlook was bleaker than the weather.

That was until Christian Petracca juggled a difficult mark in front of goal and converted from 35m, finally putting his side on the scoreboard. A few minutes later and Petracca had another shot on goal, making sure that his 30m set shot shaved another six points off the Blues’ lead.

Tracca’s goals had an electrifying affect on his team mates, and they were suddenly hell bent on taking the game to Carlton.

Paddy Cripps spoiled the festivities however, when he brought the Dees momentum to a shuddering halt, after collecting the ground ball from a stoppage and snapping from the top of the square. 
Another party pooper, Matthew Owies, kicked his second from a 45m set shot and pushed the margin out to a game high of thirty seven points.

Just as the situation was looking its bleakest for Melbourne, Daniel Turner became the recipient of a down field free kick when Alex Neal-Bullen was struck after he kick the ball. Turner cut the lead back to thirty one points, with his coolly taken set shot from the 50m arc.

Melbourne get themselves back in the game

The Demons have recovered from greater half time deficits in the past, but Carlton seemed in particularly good form, and the wet conditions were not conducive to a high scoring game.

Melbourne’s task only increased in difficulty, when twenty seconds after the bounce, Charlie Curnow collected the ball and curled it through, again putting Carlton thirty seven points in front.

After the bounce, Max Gawn won the hitout and sent the ball inside 50, where Kysaiah Pickett received a hand pass and launched the ball forward and across the line. Could this finally be the catalyst that truly turned the tables for Melbourne?

Alas, no. Matthew Owies kicked his hat trick by snapping round the corner from the top of the square and returning the margin to thirty seven.

By now, the rain had all but stopped and three goals had been scored in less than two minutes.

Still the Demons were undaunted, continuing to pressure their opponents and creating chances on goal. Unfortunately though, they were unable to capitalise. Then another stoppage and the unstoppable Petracca fought his way through to escape the pack, snapping his third of the night.

But, yet again Carlton had the right of reply. Charlie Curnow found himself alone in front of goal as the ball dropped behind the group of players inside 50. Easy pickings for the leading Coleman contender.

Though Melbourne struggled to lower the deficit, conversely, Carlton was unable to extend their lead beyond the magical number thirty seven.

Bailey Fritsch had earlier missed a relatively easy shot but was deadly accurate when given a second chance. Finally the margin was under thirty points for the first time since midway through the second quarter. It was further reduced, and Christian Petracca’s status was officially upgraded to Superhero, when the Midfielder snapped his fourth goal from just outside the square.

So close and yet so far

With only twenty two points now dividing the sides, Melbourne fans had good reason for optimism at the start of the final term. However, that optimism was severely tested when George Hewitt kicked the opener for Carlton with a 35m snap.

By the halfway mark, the Dees had only managed to kick a couple of minor points before Jacob van Rooyen revived his team with a 20m set shot in front of goal. The Blues were defending fiercely but the feel of the game had changed, and Melbourne wasn’t holding anything back.

Several more opportunities for the visitors in front of goal were to no avail, but then an act of sheer heroic desperation finally netted another major. Jack Viney never gives up and his lunging slapback of the sherrin on the behind line was pounced on by Caleb Windsor, who then soccered the ball across the line. After an agonisingly long review, the goal was awarded, and the Dees’ belief was sky high.

With no time to spare, Melbourne pushed the ball back inside 50, where Viney picked out Tracca in the pocket. The around the corner kick was his fifth goal and had the Demons within seven points of their opponents.

With less than a minute to go, Max Gawn marked just inside the arc. He quickly took the set shot, which sailed high, long and finally across the goal line. Unfortunately, with only forty seconds left on the clock, the courageous Dees couldn’t complete what would have been a comeback for the ages.

Next round is against West Coast in Perth. The Eagles are a long way from their recent best and are very beatable on their previously impervious home ground, but they still have a few surprises up their sleeves and Melbourne won’t be taking anything for granted.

Go the Mighty Dees!!!