Collingwood has won another absolute thriller at the MCG, overrunning Melbourne in the final term to finish seven-point winners.
The victory ensured the Magpies won a remarkable 11th straight game – the first time they’ve achieved the feat since 1965.
But they had to fight for the win, coming from 23 points down to kick seven goals to three in the second half to win 15.5 (95) to 13.11 (89).
Jamie Elliott and rookie Ash Johnson proved the heros for the Pies with eight goals between them.
The win ensures Collingwood are currently sitting equal top of the table with Geelong.
It was their 10th win by two goals or less all year, extending the all-time VFL-AFL record they broke last week.
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QUARTER BY QUARTER REPORT
Some spice was added to the match on Thursday when Ed Langdon labelled the Magpies tactically “a bit of a one-trick pony”.
Collingwood defender Jeremy Howe laughed off the criticism pre-game on Friday.
“Well, it’s obviously worked the last 10 games in a row,” he said on 3AW.
“I wasn’t shocked (by Langdon’s comments). If they are going to build up the game with comments like that to self-motivate, that’s fine. Good luck to them.”
But Langdon felt the immediate impact of his comments when he was crunched in a tackle seconds into the contest.
The Pies came from everywhere after Brayden Maynard buried Langdon into the MCG turf.
“There’s his duck dinner right there,” commentator Luke Hodge said.
“They’ll come at him all night,” Brian Taylor added.
“It’ll be interesting to see how Langdon deals with that. He’s normally out on the wing … he’s going to be looking over his shoulder,” Hodge said.
Jordan de Goey got the Pies off to the perfect start when he snagged a beautiful Darcy Cameron tap down.
An unmanned de Goey got to the back of the contest and snapped truly from 25m.
“Confusion with the handover, (Clayton) Oliver stays back. They sort of looked at each other like who is staying, who is going?” Hodge said.
But from that point, the next 10 minutes belonged to Melbourne as Christian Petracca simply bashed his way through for the Demons’ first.
Christian Salem and Jack Viney added more pain to the Pies before Jamie Elliott broke the Dees’ three-goal run.
Max Gawn had the chance to add Melbourne’s fifth for the term, but his set shot sailed wide.
“That’s where he has a bit of a problem,” commentator James Brayshaw said.
Down the other end, Gawn’s direct opponent Mason Cox had no such issue with his shot, closing the margin to seven.
Another clearance – Melbourne’s 11th for the first term – from the wing saw the Dees stream forward as Bayley Fritsch went aerial against Nathan Murphy.
He went back and slotted the goal from 15m out.
“If you give them time and space, they’ll use the ball too well,” Hodge said.
Elliott added his second goal for the term when his diving tackle saw Demon Michael Hibberd dispossessed.
“There’s a real finals feel tonight,” Taylor said.
Only a lunging Darcy Moore prevented Melbourne’s seventh goal for the term as his spoil denied a certain major.
The Pies dodged another bullet when with one second on the clock, Ash Johnson was penalised for failing to stand on the mark when called to do so.
“Wow, what a mistake to make,” Taylor said.
Salem pushed his shot wide and the Dees took an eight-point lead into the first break.
Collingwood’s physicality continued in the second with Mason Cox penalised for kneeing Max Gawn in the ribs.
But the Dees skipper was able to brush off the contact and help his team to two early goals.
Down by 23 points, Elliott once again stepped up and won himself a free kick.
When Brody Mihocek kicked his first for the night, the margin was back to 10.
But some desperate Melbourne defence, to deny Elliott his fourth goal in a half, and a 50m penalty as Jeremy Howe claimed he couldn’t hear the whistle and kicked the ball away cost the Pies.
Bayley Fritsch slotted the set shot to bring the lead back to 21 points minutes from the main break.
“When (Melbourne) lost that five of eight, that desperation was not there,” Hodge said praising the Dees’ defence.
Only Collingwood’s “ridiculous efficiency” inside 50 kept them in the contest.
They had nine disposals inside their 50 for seven goals at one stage midway through second.
With just a minute to go, Darcy Moore opted for a risky kick in up the corridor to Scott Pendlebury.
He found Steele Sidebottom on the wing before John Noble ran by. Ash Johnson went the fast snap and manged to close the gap to 17 points at half time.
The Demons’ clearance dominance rolled on in the third term, after a 13-4 count in the opening half, but they couldn’t make it count on the scoreboard.
The Pies struggled to break the Demons’ defensive zone in the opening seven minutes before a quick play on by Darcy Moore saw Collingwood finally break through.
“They poked, prodded and teased, and eventually they got through,” Taylor praised.
Beau McCreery kicked his first of the night from just outside the square, and seconds later he had Steven May caught cold for another shot on goal.
But he failed to make the distance as there were concerns on the sidelines with Will Hoskin-Elliott subbed out of the match.
“Their pressure has lifted Collingwood. They can’t get the ball free Melbourne, there’s someone in their face every time they get it,” commentator Matthew Richardson said.
When Nick Diacos caught Ben Brown in a big tackle to deny Melbourne a goal, Josh Carmichael couldn’t put it on the scoreboard for the Pies as his running shot sailed just wide.
“Not sure how long Melbourne are going to hang on here,” Brayshaw said.
But Collingwood’s great work in the third was undone by a Charlie Spargo dribbler. Brayden Maynard’s decision to come off his man and try and impact at half back didn’t pay off as Melbourne had the extra from there.
A big contested grab by Mihocek kept the Pies within striking distance late in the third – but it was a tight call with the score review needed to overturn the initial call of a behind.
Mihocek’s goal ensured Collingwood managed a 14th score from just their 26th entry inside 50.
“The efficiency tonight has been ridiculous,” Brayshaw praised.
A late blow from Pat Lipinski closed the margin to just 10 points late in the third. Even Darcy Moore was celebrating in the backline as the Pies kicked their third goal for the quarter to Melbourne’s one.
Gawn had the chance to extend the lead but sprayed his snap out on the full.
“Oh boy, Maxy’s had a bad night by foot,” Taylor said.
Nick Diacos was drilled into the turf early in the final term and was assisted from the field.
The umpire called the youngster to play on and Bayley Fritsch came from his blind side to bury him into the turf.
It took Elliott three goes, after earlier shots went out on the full and short, but he finally got there with his fourth goal for the match in the last term.
“Game almost exclusively being played in Collingwood’s half,” Brayshaw said.
A huge Brayden Maynard tackle locked the ball in before Ash Johnson gave the Pies the lead for the first time since the opening minutes, sending the MCG crowd wild.
“This is just plain crazy,” Brayshaw said.
Another centre clearance for the Dees gave them the perfect opportunity for a response. And they got one through Ben Brown as the ball landed in his lap.
Some brilliance from McCreery to get the ball over the boundary on the wing, with just Melbourne defenders ahead of him, gave the Pies a chance to reset. And Josh Diacos delivered to put the Pies back up by five points.
But once again, the centre clearance went Melbourne’s way and Alex Neal-Bullen made no mistake.
“Wow, it’s a frenzy here!” Taylor said.
“The last four scores are four lead changes.”
“This looks every bit two versus three,” Brayshaw added.
Johnson kicked his fourth for the night when Harrison Petty was penalised for hands in the back, and once again the Pies reclaimed the lead.
Petracca tried to bulldoze his way through the corridor and was caught holding the ball as Collingwood wound down the clock to record an astonishing 11th straight win.
THE 3-2-1… (with David Zita)
3. THE RUN HOME
How in the hell do they keep doing this?
Yet again, Collingwood has made a mockery of all predictions and statistics.
They are second on the AFL ladder and if they win just one of their final two games from here they‘ll be in the top four come finals.
If you do it once it’s a potential fluke, but winning these close games as much as they have is anything but at this point.
Now, they are in a golden position to finish in the top-two.
For the Dees, it means they have little wiggle room from here – another loss from here will mean they‘re relying on other results to keep them in.
It’s an extraordinary Pies win in a season full of them, while more questions will now be asked of the Dees and whether they’ve still got it heading into September.
2. LANGDON’S COMMENTS SPARK BIG RESPONSE
It was what we were all looking out for – how would the Pies respond to Ed Langdon’s “all duck, no dinner” comments, if at all?
Refreshing honesty seemed to be the theme of the week, given what Craig McRae told Fox Footy pre-game.
“We’re about to have a meeting and I’ll definitely mention it,” he said.
“I think modern sport is around trying to find little edges and we want to make sure our players are motivated and inspired. Some are inspired by different things.”
A brutal tackle on Langdon in the opening seconds of the game followed by a swarm of Magpies made it clear the message had gotten through.
The post-script will be about whether Langdon poked the bear and whether as a result it will be another example of a player showing some personality only to get criticised into submission.
Ultimately, Langdon‘s comments added to the theatre of the game… isn’t that a good thing?
A lot of Melbourne supporters would say no given the result… but the fans of 17 other clubs might be saying yes.
1. DE GOEY BACK TO HIS BEST
After a dismal performance in round 16, Jordan De Goey has put every foot right since returning.
Last week he was one of the best players on the ground despite slowing down in the second half.
This week against Melbourne, he lifted yet again.
He finished with 24 disposals (12 contested), a goal, one goal assist and six score involvements.
He’s playing for his future and perhaps that is when he is at his best.
In any case, he is looming as a significant weapon come September.