Hawks hold off Blues to lock in top four - Sports News - Fanatics - the world's biggest events

Hawks hold off Blues to lock in top four

Sam Lienert 19/08/2011 11:50:56 PM Comments (0)

Hawthorn have locked in their first AFL finals double-chance since their 2008 premiership, but only after surviving a spirited Carlton fightback at Etihad Stadium on Friday night.

The Hawks dominated the first half and led by as much as 45 points early in the third quarter, at which stage Carlton had just one goal on the board.

But the Blues charged home, to fall just short, 10.18 (78) to 8.18 (66) in front of 52,034 fans.

Lance Franklin starred with four goals for the Hawks, including three in a dominant first half and a sensational running goal in the last term, to push himself further clear in the race for his second Coleman Medal.

Kade Simpson kicked two last-quarter goals for Carlton, while comeback defender Michael Jamison almost proved a matchwinner for the Blues, kicking 1.3 in the second half after being swung forward, including two shots which hit the post.

Inaccuracy cost Carlton badly in the final term, as they outscored the tiring Hawks 3.6 to 2.4 for the quarter, with Bryce Gibbs kicking three behinds, including a 45m set shot late in the game which could have cut the margin to a goal.

Carlton, who have the bye next weekend before their only remaining home and away game, against St Kilda, can not catch the third-placed Hawks, who moved six points clear of them with their victory, guaranteeing a top-four berth.

The Blues' only hope of staying in the top four themselves is if fifth-placed West Coast lose two of their remaining three games - against Essendon, Brisbane and Adelaide - and Carlton beat the Saints.

The more likely scenario is that Carlton will be staring at their third elimination final in as many seasons, a daunting prospect given they have lost cut-throat finals in each of the past two seasons.

More worrying for the Blues was their scoring struggles, particularly in the first half.

They need key forward Jarrad Waite to return from injury and find form fast, after their pace-based attack struggled in the face of the Hawks' early stifling defensive intensity.

Hawthorn midfielders Jordan Lewis and Brad Sewell did an excellent job rotating on Carlton Brownlow Medal favourite Chris Judd, keeping him to just 15 touches.

Josh Gibson was excellent in defence and survived an injury scare in the second quarter, while veterans Luke Hodge and Sam Mitchell were influential ball-winners.

Simpson and Heath Scotland were good in midfield for the Blues, while Chris Yarran provided good run from defence.

Hawthorn coach Alastair Clarkson said it was a good experience of finals intensity, with the high pressure leading to plenty of errors from both sides, despite perfect conditions.

"It was a great opportunity for our players to play in a high-pressure game and know full well that that's what's coming in September," Clarkson said.

Carlton coach Brett Ratten focused on his side's second-half fightback, rather than the poor first half, saying it was pleasing the Blues responded after Hawthorn's early assault.

"There were a lot of encouraging signs for the group in terms of run and our effort and our ability to adjust our structures in games, which I don't think we've handled as well before."

He said Waite's return from a hip injury would be important, but it was unclear whether he would be ready for Carlton's opening final.

"He needs to play VFL (next weekend) to really stake a claim for finals," Ratten said.

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