AFL top four still wide open - Sports News - Fanatics - the world's biggest events

AFL top four still wide open

By Justin Chadwick and Greg Buckle 24/07/2011 08:03:18 PM Comments (0)

The race for spots inside the top four remains wide open - and it's all thanks to a wooden goalpost.

Fifth-placed West Coast stayed within striking distance of Carlton and Hawthorn after Fremantle goalsneak Hayden Ballantyne's after-the-siren shot on goal hit the post, handing the Eagles a crucial one-point victory in a thrilling western derby encounter on Sunday.

The 8.17 (65) to 9.10 (64) triumph keeps John Worsfold's charges within two points of fourth-placed Carlton and four points adrift of third-placed Hawthorn, who posted a commanding 54-point win over Melbourne.

Top-ranked Collingwood (15 wins from 16 games) and second-placed Geelong (15 wins from 17 games) appear destined to lock up top-two spots, but the pressure is on Hawthorn and Carlton to keep winning in order to remain in the top four and earn a vital double chance come finals time.

Fremantle's seventh loss of the season leaves them just two points clear of eighth-placed St Kilda and ninth-placed Essendon, but they were brave in defeat against the Eagles.

The Dockers looked dead and buried when Luke Shuey's goal midway through the final quarter put the Eagles up by 22 points.

But Fremantle came storming back into the contest, with goals to Stephen Hill, Chris Mayne and Nat Fyfe closing the gap to two points.

Ballantyne had the chance to win it when Matt Rosa was controversially pinged for deliberate out-of-bounds in the dying seconds of the contest.

But Ballantyne's kick from 52m out hit the padding on the post, with celebrations from Fremantle players pretending the kick went through for a goal not fooling the goal umpire.

Geelong showed glimpses of their best form in a 62-point thrashing of Richmond at Etihad Stadium.

The 17.11 (113) to 7.9 (51) victory was Geelong's 15th in 17 matches in 2011 and ends a mid-season flat patch which included two losses and an unconvincing win over Brisbane.

Geelong kicked 11 goals to Richmond's one in the first half to set up the win.

Allen Christensen, in his debut season for the Cats, was among the better players for the winners and midfielder James Kelly was also influential in a one-sided contest that attracted 33,761 fans.

Travis Varcoe and big man Tom Hawkins kicked three goals each for the Cats, while Richmond's reigning Coleman medallist Jack Riewoldt booted three goals to take his tally for the season to 50.

The Tigers suffered a major blow 13 minutes into the game when Chris Newman limped off with a suspected knee injury.

Livewire Hawthorn forward Cyril Rioli had an instant impact in his return from injury as an efficient Hawthorn outclassed Melbourne to cruise to a 20.12 (132) to 12.6 (78) win at the MCG.

The Hawks won every quarter, with star forward Lance Franklin kicking five goals and youngster Luke Breust and Rioli three each.

Adelaide coach Neil Craig faces a week of intense speculation over his future after watching his team slump to a 103-point defeat to St Kilda on Friday night.

Collingwood brushed aside Gold Coast by 54 points, 19.15 (129) to 11.9 (75), while Sydney enhanced their top-eight prospects with a 39-point win over Western Bulldogs, 16.18 (114) to 11.9 (75).

And North Melbourne are just two points adrift of eighth spot after posting an important 45-point triumph over Brisbane, 17.20 (122) to 11.11 (77).

A masterclass from Chris Judd and eight goals from Eddie Betts inspired Carlton to a 74-point win over Essendon in a result that saw the Bombers tumble out of the top eight.

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