Carlton coach David Teague has lauded midfielder Sam Walsh’s efforts in helping the Blues to turn a last-quarter deficit into an important win over the Dockers.
Walsh shook off a quiet start and rose to his influential best just when the Blues needed him most, booting a late goal to ice his side’s second win over Fremantle this season.
Walsh’s heroics put Carlton just six points out of the eight with seven weeks of the regular season remaining and breathed new life into a side many wrote off weeks ago.
And he did it all just one day after turning 21.
“He’s an elite runner and he’s one that will find a way late in games,” Teague said of the former No. 1 draft pick.
“He’s a competitor, he’s had a few guys go to him through the year and he seems to, when he gets his run going, he finds space and he works hard. Sam was great for us.”
Teague praised the Blues for bucking their trend of surrendering leads late to record back-to-back wins for just the second time this season.
“They showed great character. I loved the passion they played with today,” Teague said.
“Freo were probably on top of us in the contest, around the clearances, they were beating us quite convincingly.
“I thought our defenders’ ability to hold up and be strong behind the ball was very good. As a collective, as a group I thought they found a way to just impact, they dug deep. It would have been nice to take advantage of a couple of our opportunities in the last quarter, but I think Freo probably have a similar feeling.”
Fremantle coach Just Longmuir lamented wayward goalkicking from his squad, with the Dockers registering four more scoring shots on the night, blowing a golden opportunity to move into the top eight.
“That’s the outcome but the process is the disappointing part. We didn’t play as connected as we did last week, we didn’t have as many contributors as we did last week, we weren’t as moment by moment as we were last week. That’s the disappointing thing,” Longmuir said.
“We just go to work on it. We just have to keep working on it. Some of the easy shots on goal were general play shots. I thought that was a sign of lack of composure. When you give the opposition a head start like we did you always play catch up. That feeds into itself and you lack a bit of composure when you know you’ve got more time. We were just chasing the game all night because of our start.”
The only sour note for the Blues was a foot injury to gun midfielder Patrick Cripps, with Teague revealing he will head for scans on Sunday to determine the extent of the injury. Cripps was able to play out the game despite looking hobbled at times.
“I’m not sure how bad it is. I think he’s got a sore foot, so we’ll go get that checked out. He was confident, he said it felt ok outside of kicking,” Teague said.
“He’s a great leader, I thought some of his tackles, his body work around the contest, even late I know he grabbed the boys in at three quarter time, this game meant a lot to him.”
Carlton produced one of its best performances of the season on Saturday night, fending off a wasteful Fremantle outfit to run out 16-point winners.
Incredibly, the win takes the much-maligned Blues to just six points out of the top eight, meaning finals are still a mathematical chance with seven rounds of the regular season remaining.
Surrendering the lead for the first time early in the fourth quarter, Carlton stemmed the flow in a desperate final term, with a right foot snap from Sam Walsh icing the game 24 minutes into the final term.
The classy finish capped off the latest brilliant performance from the young star who finished with 25 disposals and eight clearances despite close attention from Caleb Serong throughout.
It was a scintillating start for the Blues, who kicked the first five goals of the game before Fremantle began to dominate around the contest behind the silver service of gun ruckman Sean Darcy.
The Dockers kicked the final three goals of the third quarter and led the scoring shot count 23-13 through three quarters as they ultimately were left to rue wasteful kicking in front of goal.
The resilient fourth quarter performance from Carlton looked unlikely at three quarter time, as Fremantle dominated the scoring shots 23 to 13. Unable to capitalise on periods of dominance throughout the season, the fourth quarter fight back was a significant moment of growth for a Blues team looking to build momentum in the back half of the season.
Another three goals from Harry McKay, the continued emergence of Paddy Dow and a tough performance from a hobbled Patrick Cripps left the small but boisterous Carlton faithful delighted by the final siren.
With the game moved from Western Australia due to Covid outbreaks across the country, the Dockers will be left to lament wasting a golden opportunity to stamp their finals credentials.
Fyfe tested on return
Missing the previous two games with a shoulder injury, the Blues wasted no time in testing out the Fremantle star. First, Liam Stocker laid a bone crunching tackle on Fyfe in the Dockers forward 50 before Sam Walsh buried the star to be awarded a holding the ball decision minutes later.
Cripps gives Blues scare
The only sour point of a dominant first term came in the dying minutes with an attempted snap from top of the goalsquare from Patrick Cripps resulting in the Carlton star kicking the leg of Brandon Walker. Cripps immediately fell to the ground holding his leg. He limped to the bench and immediately went down the race.
Much to the relief of Blues fans, Cripps would return from the race during the quarter time break, playing out the game despite appearing hobbled.
McKay snaps a beauty
Harry McKay has been known to snap around the corner on his left foot rather than kick a traditional drop punt. He took his drop punt hesitance to the next level early in the third quarter when he casually walked straight at goal before kicking a banana from 35 metres out and 15 meters inside the boundary line to give the Blues an 18-point lead. Unconventional but effective, McKay and the Blues will live with those results.
DOCKERS 0.4 4.8 8.15 8.16 (64)
BLUES 4.2 7.2 10.3 12.8 (80)
DOCKERS Darcy, Brayshaw, Cerra, Fyfe, Ryan, Mundy
BLUES Walsh, Cripps, Dow, Newman, Betts, McKay, Kennedy
DOCKERS Brayshaw 2, Darcy, Henry, Lobb, Switkowski, Treacy, Walters
BLUES McKay 3, Betts 2, Silvagni 2, De Koning, Dow, Kennedy, Owies, Walsh
UMPIRES O’Gorman, Williamson, Glouftsis
PLAYER OF THE YEAR
3 Sam Walsh
2 Sean Darcy
1 Patrick Cripps
Originally published as The man pulling Carlton’s season out of the fire