Collingwood grinded out a gutsy 13-point win over West Coast in an emotional semi final at the MCG last night.
The Pies rallied from 23-points down in the first quarter to win 10.13 (73) to 9.6 (60) in front of 65,483 people.
The win was dedicated to former Collingwood player John McCarthy, who passed away earlier this week on an end-of-season trip to Las Vegas at just 22 years of age.
The Pies were led by a colossal defensive display from Ben Reid. The backman was given a number of duties on West Coast’s giant forwardline, nullifying the likes of Josh Kennedy, Quinten Lynch and Dean Cox.
Acting Magpies captain Scott Pendlebury, as well as Dale Thomas, lifted in the third time to swing the game in Collingwood’s favour after West Coast had gotten off to a magnificent start.
Collingwood ruckman Darren Jolly also did a fantastic job to limit the effectiveness of Cox and Nic Naitanui in the ruck.
The Eagles bolted out of the blocks, kicking the first four goals of the match. It was an ominous opening for the Pies, however as the game wore on West Coast’s tall forwards failed to make a similar impact to the one achieved in last week’s elimination final against North Melbourne.
Daniel Kerr was everywhere early, racking up possessions and kicking the Eagles’ fourth. Meanwhile Andrew Gaff was also allowed to run free and was hurting Collingwood whenever he found space.
Collingwood thought they’d stemmed the first quarter onslaught when Andrew Krakouer snapped around his body, however a controversial goal review decision overturned the goal.
The call to go upstairs was made late, and replays proved inconclusive, however a decision was somehow made to rule the ball had already crossed the line for a point before it was handed off to Krakouer. The Pies fans were in uproar as the Eagles went into the first break nine-points ahead.
The second term was tough and frantic. No player was given an inch, leading to several turnovers and sloppy quick kicks out of congested scrums. Collingwood goaled early through Dane Swan, and it took the Eagles until the 26-minute mark to respond through the dangerous Josh Hill.
With the Pies trailing by 11-points at the main interval, a six-minute Dale Thomas burst after half time quickly changed the momentum of the game.
Thomas struck twice from set shots, as well as snapping from around his body to put the Pies in front.
Pendlebury also lifted with a gifted midfield display. His clearance work and cool head under pressure enabled Collingwood to steady the ship early in the match before striking when it mattered most.
West Coast were under heavy pressure, and it was reflected by Darren Glass uncharacteristically kicking the ball out on the full. Jarryd Blair then slotted a fantastic goal from the ensuing free kick, putting the Pies 17-points in front late in the third term.
However Jack Darling was allowed to mark on the lead and goal after the siren to keep the Eagles within touching distance at the final change.
Both sides activated their substitutions, with Matt Rosa coming on in place of the disappointing Lynch for West Coast, while Collingwood withdrew Alan Didak for Jamie Elliott.
The Eagles started the final quarter brilliantly. Naitanui won a free kick and goaled before Kennedy marked strongly to put the Eagles back in front.
All of a sudden things were beginning to turn pear-shaped for the Pies, as Chris Dawes hobbled off with a suspected knee injury.
The game was stretching, as both sides attempted to will themselves towards a preliminary final against Sydney.
Dayne Beams, whose fantastic season was capped by a fourth-placed finish in this week’s MVP awards, stepped up to another level in the final quarter. He was under every pack, winning every clearance in an effort to turn the tide back in Collingwood’s favour.
Tyson Goldsack, who was a constant threat throughout the night, marked 40 out and drilled his set shot for yet another lead change.
Swan then recovered from dropping a simple chest mark to gather the loose ball and snap what proved to be the decisive goal.
Both sides were out on their feet, and the Eagles’ weary legs couldn’t find an answer to Collingwood’s stubborn defending. No goals were kicked in the final quarter of an hour as the final siren sounded to the relief of Pies fans.
There were tears from the likes of Beams at the end of the match, as Collingwood dedicated their remarkable victory to their late mate ‘J-Mac’.
While West Coast’s season ended with a heartbreaking loss, the Pies now look ahead to next Friday night’s preliminary final against Sydney.
5 – Ben Reid
4 – Scott Pendlebury
3 – Dale Thomas
2 – Darren Jolly
1 – Daniel Kerr
By Riley Beveridge.
You can follow Riley on Twitter: @RileyBev.