Undermanned Hawks spoil Blues' party

Levi Casboult and Matt Spangher in an off-the-ball tussle. Photo: Pat Scala
Levi Casboult and Matt Spangher in an off-the-ball tussle. Photo: Pat Scala

HAWTHORN 6.2 9.5 12.8 18.10 (118)CARLTON 2.1 6.5 11.9 13.12 (90)
Goals: Hawthorn: C Rioli 3 J Roughead 3 J Ceglar 2 M Suckling 2 B Hill B Ross B Sewell D Hale I Smith L Breust L Shiels T O’Brien. Carlton: L Casboult 4 M Robinson 3 T Menzel 2 A Walker B Gibbs D Thomas J Waite.
BEST Hawthorn: Birchall, Sewell, Hodge, Hill, Lewis, Suckling. Carlton: Murphy, Judd, Gibbs, Rowe, Casboult, Simpson.
Injuries: Hawthorn: Jack Gunston (quad) replaced in selected side by Tim O’Brien. Carlton: L Henderson (hamstring) replaced in selected side by M Watson, M Jamison (shoulder) replaced in selected side by N Graham.
Reports: Hawthorn: C Rioli for engaging in rough conduct against Z Tuohy in the third quarter.
Umpires: Matt Stevic, Sam Hay, Dean Margetts.
Official Crowd: 49,615 at MCG.

It's a weekend of celebration for Carlton, with the Blues hosting their 150th anniversary dinner on Saturday night. Departing president Stephen Kernahan has been thanked for his 29 years in a variety of on and off-field roles, while coach Mick Malthouse had his 700th match in the hot seat on Friday night, although only his 36th at Carlton.

What the rank-and-file Blues supporters had also hoped for was a breakthrough win over Hawthorn, their nemesis in 10 matches since 2005. That, though, will have to wait for another day, as the undermanned Hawks, complete with a fragile defence, showed a strength of character and simple game smarts to notch a 28-point win.

Leading by five points at three-quarter-time, the Hawks monstered their opponents with six goals to two in the final term, delivering the final dagger in the Blues' hopes of remaining in finals contention.

When the pressure was at its fiercest, the Blues lost their way in the clearances, lost direction around the ground and were forced into turnovers, highlighted when vice-captain Andrew Carrazzo handballed to an opponent in the middle of the ground, leading seconds later to a Cyril Rioli goal that effectively ended the contest.

Just days after the rugged snooze fest between Melbourne and Collingwood at the MCG, this, in large parts, was a return to old-fashioned football. Simply, it was about moving the ball quickly, opening up the forward line and kicking long to one-on-one battles.

In the end, it was the Hawks who could sustain this brave style for the longest, as they now prepare for a Saturday-afternoon blockbuster against Collingwood.

Jack Gunston's late withdrawal for the Hawks was offset by possible opponent Michael Jamison deciding his shoulder was too sore. When the Blues also lost Lachie Henderson, they were down a key position utility.

This left greater responsibility on Matthew Watson in defence, and he would have a first-half nightmare, initially by punching the ball in one marking contest towards the centre that led to a Liam Shiels goal, and later a botched short pass in the back pocket that led to a clever Rioli snap.

It seemed it could be that kind of night for the Blues, despite a strong return from Chris Judd. In only his second game of the season, his dash through the middle led to Mitch Robinson kicking the opening goal of the contest. For all the miles on his legs, Judd remains a key cog.

The Hawks, having moved the ball from defence so easily in the first term, found it tougher going in the second. The Blues responded with greater intensity and pressure - Dennis Armfield even pushed Grant Birchall into the fence and will be scrutinised for a subsequent strike - and were able to spread the Hawks' defence, a key to silencing the defending champions. At the other end, Sam Rowe was to be commended for his job on Jarryd Roughead, even though the Hawk finished with three goals.

Jarrad Waite and Levi Casboult were dangerous, with the latter reinforcing his strong marking and, importantly, booting four goals. Casboult's unique kicking style means he often cannot be relied upon to convert.

However, as all good sides are able to do, the Hawks found a way against the flow of play. Rioli's long dribbling goal, a Luke Breust snap after Watson had spilt a mark, and Tim O'Brien's mark and goal came just as the Blues pressed. Brad Hill's continued development through the middle was also impressive, while bullocking veteran Brad Sewell found plenty of the ball.

Despite leading by three goals at half-time, Hodge gathered his players near the edge of the centre square and asked them for a show of hands. Whatever was asked, perhaps a willingness to be tackle more, it was the Blues who emerged after the main break with the required edge.

Casboult capitalised on the Blues' pressure inside 50 to kick the opening goal, prompting Rioli to be overly aggressive in response when he was put on report for an ugly hit on Zach Tuohy. When Waite marked over Hodge and Angus Litherland and goaled, the Blues led for the first time since the opening minutes.

The Hawks may be missing several of their premiership stars but their pride remains. They dragged their way back into the contest, shown when Isaac Smith, well held by Andrejs Everitt, had his first kick of the term at the 28-minute mark and snapped a goal from just inside the boundary.

This story Undermanned Hawks spoil Blues' party first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.