Jon Pierik August 19, 2012
Not so fast: Eddie Betts reels in Michael Hibberd. Photo: Sebastian Costanzo
CARLTON 5.3 15.4 20.9 24.12 (156) ESSENDON 2.5 6.6 7.8 8.12 (60)
GOALS Carlton: Waite 5, Walker 3, McLean 3, Garlett 3, Simpson 3, Casboult 3, Betts 2, Murphy 2. Essendon: Ryder 2, Crameri 2, Stanton, Watson, Hurley, Lonergan.
BEST Carlton: Carrazzo, Waite, Murphy, Gibbs, Simpson, Casboult, McLean. Essendon: Bellchambers, Watson, Hooker.
INJURIES Essendon: Fletcher (hip flexor), Carlisle (ankle)
UMPIRES Schmitt, McBurney, Farmer.
CROWD 59,381 at MCG.
WHILE the pre-match hype that Carlton would target Bomber Sam Lonergan didn't eventuate, it didn't matter - for the Blues or their supporters - because they had much more on their minds yesterday.
''We needed to come out and play well to keep our season alive,'' skipper Chris Judd said last night.
The Blues did just that with a stunning victory that ensured they remained in finals contention and also erased memories of the round-four loss, including Lonergan's heavy tackle on Andrew Carrazzo.
In doing so, the Blues crafted their most productive quarter of the season, a 10-goal stampede in the second term, which left fans wondering what might have been had Jarrad Waite, Marc Murphy and Carrazzo not been absent for extended periods through the season with injury.
The Blues produced it all in the first half, toughness - at the man and ball, and during a quarter-time melee - while also bruising the Bombers pyschologically with their skills and precision on the soggy MCG turf.
The Bombers were sloppy and lost their composure as their season unravelled in the second term, at one stage conceding back-to-back goals to Brock McLean and Levi Casboult through 50-metre penalties.
When Casboult followed up with a party trick many thought wasn't in his repertoire - shaping through a 50-metre goal from just inside the boundary - it was clear this was not going to be Essendon's afternoon.
The Blues took charge in all areas in that second term. Their efficiency by foot was a superb 71 per cent, while their pressure was best exemplified by Carrazzo holding Jobe Watson to just nine first-half possessions and one clearance.
This contest was effectively over at the main break. The Blues had smashed their rivals 15-5 at centre clearances and 81-64 in contested possessions to lead by 52 points, prompting Judd to label it ''close to'' the team's best term of the year.
If there were any concerns the Blues would not emerge after the break in the right frame of mind, they were extinguished when the bustling Casboult ran down the speedy Courtenay Dempsey inside the Blues' attacking 50 metres, the ball spilling free and resulting in a goal to Jeff Garlett.
Casboult is still best remembered for being the boy who was handcuffed by a teammate during the team's infamous booze cruise, but his efforts yesterday - three goals and six marks, four of those contested - in his fifth senior match show there should be good things to look forward to. With knee bandaged, face unshaven and hair in need of a good comb, Casboult had the look of an old-fashioned footballer.
But he could now be the new-age partner for Waite, who monstered Jake Carlisle before the Bomber defender was carried off in the third term with an ankle injury.
The loss of Dustin Fletcher early in the first term to a groin injury clearly hurt the Bombers' defence. However, had he been fit, it's doubtful he would have curtailed Waite who finished with five goals and five marks.
Waite's injury issues in recent years have meant the Blues have pondered whether they can build their forward line around him. That remains a debatable point, but Casboult's emergence could make that decision easier.
''He [Casboult] has got an elite trait in the AFL - he has very sticky hands and when he does clunk it, they stick,'' coach Brett Ratten said.
Ratten also had a good day. The decision to use Heath Scotland as a loose man from the opening bounce worked a treat. Scotland helped to congest a forward line that lacked presence and punch, while he was typically creative.
So, too, was the mosquito fleet of Eddie Betts and Garlett, who flourished alongside Waite and Casboult.
Brock McLean and Kade Simpson had another day to remember, ensuring Judd, returning from a four-week suspension, was not required to take control while shadowed by Heath Hocking. Ratten's counterpart James Hird looked stunned at times, and for good reason.
The decision to recall an underdone David Zaharakis did not work, while Brent Stanton, shadowed by Ed Curnow, was unable to help Watson, who still had 29 disposals but was stopped by Carrazzo from having his typical influence at stoppages.
Key forward Michael Hurley was also disappointing and could do worse than watch a replay of Waite's willingness to run. Simon White is an improving defender but, in fairness, Hurley wasn't helped by the supply from up the field.
That the Bombers were held to only 35 marks, compared with the Blues' 85, highlighted their inability to control this contest.
Through the week, Ratten said the Blues and Bombers were approaching a T-intersection in their seasons. It's now clear which direction either side is heading.
Carlton had this match circled on the fixture since round four, when Andrew Carrazzo was hurt in what the Blues felt was a crude Sam Lonergan tackle. Essendon coach James Hird was prepared for fireworks, but the Bombers were the initial aggressors; Chris Judd and Marc Murphy each had their jumpers ripped off in the first few minutes. The true fisticuffs erupted at quarter-time, after Dyson Heppell was brought down in a Bryce Gibbs tackle just after the siren. The brawl that ensued involved every player on the ground and rumbled for several minutes. The deep scratch on Michael Hibberd's neck suggested the Bombers lost the fight as well as the match.
Big, lumbering footballers who do surprising things are to be celebrated, and so Levi Casboult has the makings of a Carlton cult hero. He can miss the easy goals and kick the improbable ones but yesterday he kicked three, including a 50-metre bomb in the second quarter.
WORTH THE WAITE
The Blues have had to do without Jarrad Waite for much of the season but since returning from injury he has worked himself into some solid form. Yesterday Waite produced his best game against the Bombers, who were undermanned in defence from the moment Dustin Fletcher went off injured. Waite dominated his first opponent, Jake Carlisle, and continued to provide a target when Cale Hooker was switched onto him. He finished with five goals, eclipsing his four goals against Essendon in round 19 last season. - CHLOE SALTAU