‘Haven‘t seen a mauling like this for years!’ Lions fail ‘toughness test’ to ‘brutal’ Dees: 3-2-1
Yeah the Dees aren’t done.
Melbourne reactivated beast mode on Thursday night in an almighty scary performance, dismantling helpless ladder-leaders Brisbane to prove its best is still clearly better than any other AFL team.
After the Lions failed to capitalise on their early scoring opportunities, the Demons found a brutal and relentless gear across the final three quarters, thumping Brisbane at the coalface and pouncing on forward-half turnovers to record a dominant 64-point victory, 16.21 (117) to 7.11 (53).
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QUARTER-BY-QUARTER MATCH REPORT …
There were no late changes for either side, with Jayden Hunt (Melbourne) and Callum Ah Chee (Brisbane) named the medical subs.
The Lions made the fast start thanks to terrific pressure from forward Joe Daniher, who applied a run-down tackle that set up Eric Hipwood for the first goal of the night.
And when the Demons had an early opportunity to kick their first goal, Bayley Fritsch was caught holding the ball, despite having ample time to dispose of the ball and Christian Petracca free for a handball near goal.
The Demons eventually hit the scoreboard, with Tom Sparrow converting their first goal.
But it was all Brisbane in the first term, with Daniher involved in everything.
With the returning Steven May for company, Daniher was causing ample headaches for the Demons’ defence. He could’ve had a monster quarter as his first two kicks were behinds, but he eventually converted a set-shot after May gave away a free kick.
And when Lincoln McCarthy nailed a running goal out of a centre bounce, the Lions held a 13-point lead.
But easy set-shot misses by Oscar McInerney and Cam Rayner meant the Lions didn’t get full scoreboard reward for effort.
“They should be 20 points in front … They’ve had 3.4 and it wouldn’t be hard to argue they should be 7.0,” Fox Footy’s Jason Dunstall said.
With around one minute left in the first term, Demon James Harmes pulled off a bizarre yet miraculous goal, throwing the ball on the boot for it to sail through for a major as stunned Lions defenders looked on.
“It just dropped out of the sky,” Channel 7’s Jimmy Bartel said.
It meant the Lions only held a six-point lead at quarter-time.
And that Brisbane lead evaporated at the start of the second term as the Dees pounced on forward-half turnovers.
James Jordon got the first goal of the quarter before Alex Neal-Bullen pulled off a classy checkside kick on the run to give the Dees momentum.
And when Toby Bedford pulled off his own checkside special from the boundary then Jordon converted a set-shot after a 50m penalty, the Demons held a 24-point lead.
The Demons surge came off the back off relentless pressure, with the Lions having little room to move.
“They’ve raised the bar,” Bartel said.
The Lions were given a reprieve late in the quarter when a rusty May turned the ball over just outside 50, leading to a Mitch Robinson set-shot goal that broke Melbourne’s unbroken five-goal run.
But Harmes, who’d moved onto Lachie Neale in the second term, pushed forward to kick his second, before Ben Brown converted a set-shot just before half-time to cap off a six-goal to one term and secure a 30-point lead at the main break.
The Dees at half-time led the contested possession count by +31 — Brisbane’s worst result in five years … and that was just in a half.
“That was brutal … They have just bullied the Brisbane Lions around the football,” Fox Footy analyst Leigh Montagna said.
Dual premiership Kangaroo David King added: “I haven’t seen a mauling like this around the contest for years. It’s great to watch if you’re a Melbourne fan because that has been their strength area … but gee I didn’t think it’d have this authority.”
After an early arm-wrestle to start the third term, Fritsch plucked a strong contested mark then converted before Kysaiah Pickett showed off terrific balance and strength to extend Melbourne’s lead to beyond seven goals.
There was an injury concern for the Lions in the third term, with All-Australian defender Harris Andrews coming from the ground — and down to the rooms for further treatment — with an apparent shoulder issue. he was cleared to return minutes later.
Brisbane launched a mini resurgence, with Robinson and Rayner kicking crucial goals.
But Fritsch goaled for the Dees just before three quarter-time to ensure they led by 40 points at the final change.
“I’m rapt to see Melbourne back to their absolute best against a team that’s top of the table in the Brisbane Lions,” King said.
“They’ve made them look second-rate. They’ve outmuscled them everywhere the ball has gone.
“This is as clinical as you’ll ever see.”
The Dees continued the party in the fourth quarter, with Luke Jackson snapping an awesome goal from a forward 50 stoppage before Pickett kicked his second to extend the lead beyond 50 points.
But perhaps the moment that personified the Dees’ dominance was when Jack Viney — who led from the front all night at coalface — laid a bone-crunching tackle on Keidean Coleman that forced a loose ball and led to a classy Charlie Spargo goal.
THE 3-2-1 (via David Zita)
3. NO CONTEST IN THE CONTEST
Accurate kicking in the first quarter could‘ve helped ease the pain, but there was no masking the horrorshow at the coalface for Brisbane.
Melbourne not only beat the Lions at centre, it pulverised them. Virtually every key statistic would make for alarming reading for Chris Fagan.
“That was brutal,” Leigh Montagna said at half-time, by which point Melbourne was a whopping +31 in contested possessions.
“They answered the question. We wanted to see what Melbourne had, how did the bye go, they‘ve answered it in that first half in emphatic style.
“They have just bullied the Brisbane Lions around the football.”
What made the Dees‘ contest domination all the more alarming for Chris Fagan would’ve been that it was clearly a challenge Fagan had set the side up for pre-game.
“We‘re really clear about that, we think tonight’s a real toughness test,” Fagan told Fox Footy pre-game.
“They’re a great contested side Melbourne and so are we, we’re just looking forward to seeing how we go against them.”
Spoiler alert: They didn‘t go well.
“They’ve been smashed. Plus 31 contested possessions to Melbourne (at half-time). This is Brisbane’s worst result for five years in a half of football,” David King said.
“I haven’t seen a mauling like this around the contest for years. It’s great to watch if you’re a Melbourne fan because that has been their strength area, it’s the reason why they’ve hung around even though they’ve lost the last three weeks.
“What have Brisbane got? This has been a mauling, this has been borderline embarrassing. Chris Fagan would be so frustrated with his troops given what they‘ve shown tonight.”
2. LIONS CRUMBLE UNDER PRESSURE, KEEP MCG HOODOO ALIVE
Still eight years without a win at the MCG.
Brisbane had a huge opportunity to make a statement against an out-of-sorts Melbourne side on Thursday night, with the eyes of the football world on them.
With that pressure, however, Brisbane‘s goalkicking yips of old returned.
The Lions this year had been the most accurate side in the competition in front of goal, going at 55.2 per cent heading into round 15.
With golden opportunities in front of goal throughout the first quarter, however, the Lions simply could not make the most of their chances, going at 42.9 per cent in that first term.
“We’ve got the most accurate team in the comp in terms of kicking goals, but they should be 20 points in front,” Jason Dunstall said at quarter-time.
“They had gilt-edged opportunities. They kicked 3.4 and it wouldn‘t be a hard argument to say they should’ve kicked seven goals straight. None of those are difficult kicks.
“Cam Rayner misses one from 20 metres out directly in front, we saw Daniher miss two, Oscar McInerney missed one. They‘re all set shots.
“At the end, you’ve dominated the first quarter and you’re only leading by six points, you haven’t got reward for effort.”
By the end of the second quarter, with Melbourne having kicked six goals to one in that term, Dunstall‘s words had proved prophetic.
“It‘s why those misses from the Lions in the first quarter are so costly. There was scoreboard pressure on the Dees at quarter-time.”
1. LEVER LIFTS AS BACKLINE BRILLIANCE RETURNS
Of the Melbourne brigade below its best, Jake Lever has been one well and truly under pressure to lift.
Fox Footy‘s First Crack put Lever’s form on the agenda earlier this month, with the 2021 All-Australian looking “lost” in defence and averaging a career-low 1.6 intercept marks a game at the time of airing.
Returning from the bye, Lever looks to have regathered his game along with the Melbourne backline as a whole.
“He’s back to his best, he’s reading the play beautifully and he’s backing himself to take marks when he has the opportunity,” Jason Dunstall said of Lever’s performance at half-time, by which point he’d had a season-high four intercept marks.
Leigh Montagna agreed, adding: “That‘s what I’ve loved about his game; he’s not playing spare.”
“He’s actually got an opponent and at the right time he’s rolling off and intercepting and having an impact.
“That’s how you have to do it when you’re an intercept player.”
Lever formed part of a Melbourne side that David King dubbed “a different version” of the reigning premiers given their ability to punish sides on turnover compared to their more recent form.
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