Brisbane Lions beat Sydney by 32 points to secure AFL top-two spot as Bulldogs, Crows record wins


The Brisbane Lions may not have to leave the Gabba again in pursuit of this year’s AFL premiership after locking in a top-two position with a 32-point win over Sydney in Cairns.

Earlier on Sunday, the Western Bulldogs firmed as finalists after demolishing Hawthorn by 36 points to climb into the top eight, while Carlton’s finals dreams ended with a 16-point loss to Adelaide.

Up north, Brownlow Medal favourite Lachie Neale will come under scrutiny from the match review officer over a tackle that left Nick Blakey nursing a sore head after it hit the turf.

But there did not appear to be any malice in the third-quarter incident and Blakey played out the match, as the Lions posted a 11.7 (73) to 6.5 (41) victory on a wet evening.

The result means Brisbane, who hosts Carlton at the Gabba in round 18, will receive two home finals for the second straight season.

It could prove to be a smooth passage to a unique October 24 grand final that will also be played on their home deck, with Victoria unable to host matches during its COVID-19 wave.

Just days after Brisbane coach Chris Fagan put perceived rough treatment of Neale by opponents on the agenda, his star ball-winner was frustrated by close-checking Sydney youngster Ryan Clarke.

Neale was limited to a personal season-low 15 disposals as torrential rain at times made life difficult for both sides.

Sydney held a narrow five-point lead at quarter-time despite losing Lewis Taylor to a foot injury early, with veteran midfielder Luke Parker and young forward Will Hayward making their presence felt.

Dayne Zorko constantly sought to give Neale space at stoppages and Brisbane gradually turned the tide, taking control during the second term as they kicked two goals and kept Sydney scoreless.

But the dogged Swans would not go away and cut the margin to two points during the final term when Parker kicked truly before Brisbane ended the contest with a flurry of late goals.

Charlie Cameron, Zac Bailey and Eric Hipwood kicked two goals each for the Lions.

Jarryd Lyons, Hugh McCluggage and ruckman Oscar McInerney were strong contributors in the middle.

Experienced trio Josh Kennedy, Jake Lloyd and Parker were Sydney’s best, with Parker and Hayward kicking two goals apiece.

Western Bulldogs back in top eight

The Bulldogs jumped from 10th to seventh spot on the ladder with an 11.10 (76) to 6.4 (40) victory over the Hawks at Adelaide Oval.

They will be assured of a finals berth if they beat Fremantle in Cairns next Sunday but they will likely be without utility Toby McLean, who suffered a suspected knee injury.

McLean kicked a goal just 17 seconds into the match but three minutes later he was stretchered off the ground in agony after his right knee buckled in a tackle from Hawthorn ruckman Jonathon Ceglar.

The injury took some gloss from a polished performance against the Hawks, whose season continues its dreadful spiral.

Jason Johannisen was among the Bulldogs’ best, with two majors against the Hawks.(AAP: David Mariuz)

The Hawks won three of their first four matches but lost 11 of the next 12.

The Bulldogs held an 18-point break at quarter-time, then booted three goals to none in the second term for a 40-point half-time lead, 7.6 (48) to 1.2 (8).

The Hawks showed some pluck in the third quarter, kicking four goals to two, before being outscored by a goal in a tame last term.

Bulldogs Jason Johannisen, Aaron Naughton and Tim English kicked two goals each, while defender Caleb Daniel was superb with 28 disposals and a major.

Hawks stalwart Jack Gunston picked up three goals, and his teammates Liam Shiels (20 disposals) and James Cousins (19 disposals) did their best in a losing battle.

Carlton out of finals race

Carlton’s faint hopes of making the AFL finals have vanished, with Adelaide recording a third straight victory to boost its chances of avoiding the wooden spoon.

The Crows, winless for more than a year before this month, have now won three matches in 13 days after a brilliant first half set up their 10.12 (72) to 8.8 (56) win over the Blues at Carrara.

Lachlan Sholl (two goals, five inside 50s, 24 touches) dominated the opening quarter to set the tone, while Elliot Himmelberg (two goals) and Shane McAdam (one) were threats up front.

The Crows are still bottom of the ladder with one round remaining in the home-and-away season, but are now level with North Melbourne on 12 points.

An Adelaide Crows and Carlton opponent push against each other as they get ready to contest for the ball.
Adelaide’s Reilly O’Brien (left) competes with Carlton’s Levi Casboult during the Crows’ win.(AAP: Dave Hunt)

The victory sent the retiring Bryce Gibbs out a winner against his former club, which needed a win to have any chance of qualifying for the finals.

The Blues kicked just one goal in the first half to trail by 44 points at the main break.

There were finally signs of life late in the third term when captain Patrick Cripps kicked a stunning goal, having surged through traffic before turning his defender inside out to spark their comeback.

But the Blues ran out of time as the Crows helped celebrate Gibbs’s AFL career in winning style.

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Gibbs had 27 disposals in the victory, Rory Sloane selflessly offloading to him in the final moments for the fairytale finish, only for his shot at goal to sail just wide.

The veteran midfielder, who played 231 matches for the Blues, announced this week Sunday’s match would be his last in the AFL.

Traded to the Crows in 2017, the All-Australian had played just three matches for the club this year but was “happy to go out on his own terms”.

“It was a really special day and to get the win even better,” Gibbs said before being chaired off the ground.

“They’re my best mates, some of them were in my wedding party, so to share the last game together was pretty special.

“Hopefully fans at home can see that [young talent] coming to the fore the last couple of weeks … three on the trot now. It’s exciting times ahead for the Crows.

“You grind away all year … it’s great to see some reward for the boys.”

AAP



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Port Adelaide beats Essendon by 50 points to seal AFL top-two finish, Fremantle thumps North Melbourne


AFL ladder leader Port Adelaide has confirmed it will finish the home-and-away season inside the top two with a 50-point belting of Essendon.

The Power’s 11.13 (79) to 4.5 (29) victory at a rain-soaked Adelaide Oval on Saturday also killed off Essendon’s remote finals chances.

The Power cannot finish lower than second regardless of the result of their last match before the finals.

They unleashed a match-defining second quarter blitz against the hapless Bombers, booting five unanswered goals.

After trailing by five points at quarter-time, the Power’s 20-minute scoring spree in the wet was bookended by goals to star forwards Charlie Dixon and Robbie Gray.

The Power led 6.7 to 2.1 at half-time and the result was effectively decided before the home side kicked five goals to two in a second-half slog.

Power spearhead Dixon finished the match with two goals and three behinds, marring his display with a series of missed early shots.

The Power’s midfield was dominant, with Tom Rockliff relishing the heavy track to collect a match-high 30 disposals and kick a goal.

His teammates Ollie Wines (28 possessions, one goal), Travis Boak (26 possessions, one goal), Connor Rozee (18 possessions) and Karl Amon (21 possessions) were also influential.

The Power restricted Essendon to 32 inside 50s for the match.

And when the ball did enter the attacking 50, the Bombers’ attack was nullified by a stingy Power defence headed by Hamish Hartlett, Darcy Byrne-Jones and Tom Clurey.

The Power meet Collingwood on the Gold Coast on September 21, while Essendon’s season — and the coaching tenure of John Worsfold — ends with a clash against Melbourne next Saturday.

Dockers win big against Kangaroos

Jesse Hogan (centre) enjoyed a day out with four goals in the Dockers’ triumph.(AAP: Dan Peled)

Key forward Jesse Hogan has booted four goals as Fremantle posted its highest score of the AFL season in a 64-point thumping of North Melbourne on the Gold Coast.

Hogan benefited from the scoring opportunities provided when the Dockers opened up play through the middle of the ground in the 15.9 (99) to 5.5 (35) victory.

Matt Taberner, Michael Walters and Lachie Schultz also got in on the act with three goals each.

It was the Dockers’ biggest winning margin under first-year coach Justin Longmuir, who has won plaudits for implementing a new game style with his developing side.

The Dockers, who are out of finals contention, moved up to provisional 12th place on the ladder with a 7-9 win-loss record.

The result was North Melbourne’s seventh straight defeat, with the Kangaroos failing to give veteran ruckman Todd Goldstein the celebration he deserved as he reached the 250-match milestone.

The 32-year-old had a tough battle with Fremantle talls Sean Darcy and Rory Lobb throughout the match.

Lobb took four contested marks, kicked a goal and had an impact around the ground.

The Dockers won clearances (29-23), dominated contested (+28) and uncontested possession (+72), and had a whopping 52-35 advantage in inside 50s.

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Fremantle captain Nat Fyfe finished with 24 disposals and six clearances, despite copping a stray boot to the face during the second quarter.

Blake Acres and veteran David Mundy were outstanding through the midfield, while Luke Ryan and Brennan Cox held up well in defence for the Dockers.

Taylor Garner kicked a final-quarter goal for the Kangaroos as he got through his first match of the season unscathed on return from a serious hamstring injury.

The Kangaroos finish their season when they meet finals-bound West Coast on Thursday.

The Dockers can help shape the top eight in their clash with one of the finals contenders, the Western Bulldogs, on Saturday.

AAP/ABC



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Parramatta Eels home in on top-two berth after seeing off busted Melbourne Storm


Penrith can now kick three points clear on the ladder with victory against Cronulla on Friday evening.

Eels winger Maika Sivo crosses for his 20th try in 22 games at Bankwest Stadium.

Eels winger Maika Sivo crosses for his 20th try in 22 games at Bankwest Stadium.Credit:NRL Photos

Arthur bristled when it was suggested after the game Sivo and Nathan Brown may have stayed down after crusher tackles from debutant Cooper Johns and Albert Vete respectively.

“Nobody is deliberately staying down, mate,” Arthur said.

Melbourne coach Craig Bellamy thought otherwise and fumed: “I think I disagree with Brad on that one.”

Bellamy was clearly upset and took just three questions before Storm football manager Frank Ponissi ended the press conference and said the team needed to get to the airport.

Bellamy was well aware of the 8-1 penalty count. He would have wondered why Asofa-Solomona was sin-binned for a bell-ringer on Marata Niukore, only for Niukore to stay on the field late in the game for a similar decent whack on Smith.

Smith now has a broken jaw, Bellamy confirmed.

Johns, the son of TV funny man and Knights legend Matty Johns, tackled Sivo which prompted Phil Gould to say on the Nine commentary: “That’s so unlucky. He left some room for his [Sivo’s] head in the tackle … he’s just bumped him with his chest.”

Vete was pinged a couple of minutes later for the same offence on Brown. Brad Fittler said Brown often ”puts himself in that position”.

Bellamy said of the pair of crusher tackles: “Whether they are [crushers] or not, if you get people turning in tackles … nobody goes out to consciously do a crusher tackle on the opposition.

“With all due respect, there was one on our blokes that didn’t get picked up.

“Our bloke got up and played the ball.”

NRL head of football Graham Annesley made it known at the start of the week any future crusher tackles would carry a minimum 200 penalty points.

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Losing Johns, Vete, Jacks, Smith and most likely Asofa-Solomona will at least be offset by the likely return of Smith, Munster, Bromwich and possibly Jahrome Hughes for Sunday week’s clash against Manly.

Sivo scored just before half-time to make it 12 tries for the season and a mind-boggling 22 tries in 20 games at their $360 million Bankwest base.

The Eels will host South Sydney next Thursday night and while still well below the class of football they played straight after the COVID break, they continue to climb up the ladder.

Arthur said the team had poured a lot of energy into defence at training.

“We haven’t done a great deal of work at training with the ball and I think that’s showing a bit,’ Arthur said.

“We need to make sure we can defend long periods and trust our systems. We’re getting better at it, they threw plenty at us, and I know they had some quality missing, but we can only defend what’s in front of us.”

Arthur added of his try-scoring machine Sivo: “We need him scoring tries. He doesn’t bomb many.”

Storm fullback Ryan Papenhuyzen, who grew up in Rouse Hill, just up Windsor Rd from the Eels’ new training base, was arguably the best on field. He denied Eels’ opposite Clint Gutherson a try late in the second half and almost had his own four-pointer from a Johns kick in the final three minutes. He ran for 236m and has to be in with a big shot for a spot on the NSW bench.

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Parramatta Eels eye top-two finish as race for the eight heats up


The Eels’ hopes of a top two finish have been jeopardised by a drop in form over recent weeks. Brad Arthur’s side only just squeezed past the Knights, lost to a depleted Manly side and were lucky to beat both the Bulldogs and Sharks prior to the loss to the Red V.

“It’s been a tough month of footy for us. I think we’re just going through a little dip,” Jennings said. “It’s not concerning. It’s better to go through a dip now at the end of the year. That’s our main concern – getting to the back end of the season and making sure we’re prepared for that.”

Crunch time: Michael Jennings.

Crunch time: Michael Jennings.Credit:Getty Images

Shaun Lane believes the loss was a reality check for the club, who were considered premiership favourites after a strong wins against Penrith, a close loss to the Roosters and a one point win over the Raiders.

“We’ve been playing pretty average the last month or so. A loss was, in some ways, needed for us to wake ourselves up a little bit as to what we need to work and what we need to improve,” Lane said.

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“We’ve looked at that yesterday and we’re coming into this week looking to touch up a few things. Hopefully that works out better for us in the long run. Of course we don’t like to lose but the way that we were playing, we felt that wasn’t too far around the corner if we didn’t change something.”

The Thursday night blockbuster isn’t the only match which will have serious finals ramifications this weekend. Manly will not have Tom Trbojevic back in the No. 1 jersey as they face Souths in a must win clash on Saturday night.

If the Sea Eagles fall to Wayne Bennett’s side, their already slim finals hopes will be dashed altogether.

The Tigers’ season was saved by a Luke Brooks field goal on Sunday evening and they must capitalise with a win over a Roosters side which has also struggled for form in recent weeks when they meet on Saturday afternoon if they are to break their longstanding finals drought.



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