Melbourne has taken a massive step towards playing in this year’s AFL finals after a five-point win over Greater Western Sydney at the Gabba.
- The Demons moved back inside the top eight ahead of the completion of round 17
- The Power will not finish lower than second place on the ladder courtesy of their 50-point victory over the Bombers
- The Dockers outclassed the Kangaroos in their 64-point win
In Saturday’s earlier results, Port Adelaide confirmed it will finish the home-and-away season inside the top two with a 50-point belting of Essendon, while Fremantle thumped North Melbourne by 64 points.
At the Gabba, the Demons rebounded from their disappointing loss to Sydney last weekend with the 12.7 (79) to 11.8 (74) win, which puts them eighth on the ladder.
The victory lifts Melbourne to 32 points after 16 matches, ahead of the Giants and the Western Bulldogs on percentage.
The Bulldogs face Hawthorn on Sunday but Saturday’s win gives the Demons every chance of making the finals if they can win their last home-and-away match next Saturday against Essendon.
GWS, last year’s grand finalists, are now in serious danger of missing out on the top eight, having slipped to ninth on the ladder.
The Giants will now have to beat sixth-placed St Kilda next Friday and hope other results go their way to sneak into the top eight.
First-year player Trent Rivers kicked two goals for the Demons, as did Oskar Baker and Charlie Spargo.
Brent Daniels, playing on the same ground where he kicked a winning goal in a semi-final against Brisbane last year, had three majors for the Giants.
His first was an incredible dribble kick from the right pocket which rolled 50 metres before curving back to cross the goal line.
In a mixed night for the 21-year-old, he was also placed on report after catching Demons’ star Christian Petracca high in the third quarter.
Daniels also missed a set shot in the final quarter that could have put his team in front and his finish in the final minute was nothing more than a consolation.
The Giants held a seven-point lead at three-quarter time after both teams were level at the main break, but three goals in a row to Melbourne put them on the path to victory.
Christian Salem, Spargo and then Bayley Fritsch did the damage to give the Demons a lead they did not relinquish.
Teenager Rivers, who had not kicked an AFL goal before Saturday night’s match, secured the win with his second major in the dying minutes.
Power seal top-two finish
The Power’s 11.13 (79) to 4.5 (29) victory at a rain-soaked Adelaide Oval means they cannot finish lower than second regardless of the result of their last match before the finals.
It also killed off Essendon’s remote finals chances.
The Power 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
Key forward Jesse Hogan booted four goals as Fremantle posted its highest score of the AFL season.
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 in Carrara.
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.
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.