Collingwood have survived a massive Melbourne fightback to claim a seven-point win and seal a home preliminary final in a fortnight’s time.
The Pies were 25-point leaders heading into the final change on Thursday night, but were under siege in the final minutes as the Demons clawed their way back.
A Bayley Fritsch horror set shot and Kysaiah Pickett’s out of bounds on the full ensured Collingwood held on to a 9.6 (60) to 7.11 (53) win in front of more than 92,600 fans at the MCG.
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The Pies will be sweating on the availability of defender Brayden Maynard who KO’ed Demon Angus Brayshaw with a shock hit in the first term.
Collingwood coach Craig McRae had predicted his side’s win earlier this week telling reporters: “See you in a couple of weeks”, implying they would enjoy a week off.
And while they did secure that victory, they did it the hard way in the fourth term as they went goalless.
Melbourne now have to turn their attention to a semi-final next week against the winner of tomorrow night’s Carlton/Sydney clash.
But they have their own concerns with forward Jacob van Rooyen set to come under scrutiny for his stray elbow that collected Pie Dan McStay high.
Maynard and Van Rooyen bumps under fire | 01:19
QUARTER BY QUARTER MATCH REPORT
Drama unfolded pre-bounce with players forced off the ground due to severe weather.
Amid heavy rain, there were concerns over lightning so the warm ups for both teams was delayed.
Despite the earlier wet weather, play got underway on time – but it was only Collingwood who turned up in the opening minutes.
Bobby Hill had two goals in a matter of seconds – first through a high tackle free kick and the second with a brilliant crumb out the back.
“Collingwood off to the perfect start,” commentator Matthew Richardson said.
But the match soured moments later when Brayden Maynard clashed heavily with Angus Brayshaw in the middle of the ground.
As Brayshaw drove the footy forward, Maynard jumped in the air in an attempted smother and landed heavily onto Brayshaw – who did not move after the impact.
“Maynard had to go… he’s landed on him,” commentator Brian Taylor said.
“He jumped in the air to try and smother the ball – it’s really hard for him to stop. He can’t. It’s a really tough one that one,” Matthew Richardson added.
“He cannot avoid contact. What else can he do?
“It’s hard to know what else he can do there.”
Commentator Patrick Dangerfield also defended Maynard’s actions.
“Maynard plays on the edge … but there is nothing in this. Unfortunately in this game, there’s contact that occurs,” he said.
“He can’t protect himself in that position either (Maynard).
“He’s at the mercy of the oncoming player.”
As replays played around the MCG, Jack Viney went after Maynard to fly the flag – ending with his jumper torn.
Bayley Fritsch converted the downfield free kick before Brayshaw was stretchered from the ground and subbed out of the contest.
At the same time, Pie Jordan de Goey limped off and went straight down to the rooms as a result of a slip on the wet MCG turf.
While a strapped up de Goey was able to return, Dan McStay then headed down for a HIA test after a big collision with Demon Jacob van Rooyen.
Jamie Elliott had two chances to extend the Pies’ lead but sprayed both chances in the wet.
A clumsy challenge from Jake Lever on Brody Mihocek gifted Collingwood another shot on goal – but he too couldn’t convert.
It took Jack Crisp from just beyond the arc to get Collingwood’s third goal of the match.
Darcy Cameron added another goal to ensure the Pies held a 26-6 lead at the first change.
McStay was able to return for the second term as the ball camped out in Collingwood’s forward half.
Mihocek again let Melbourne off the hook with a set shot that sailed well left.
“They have missed some real gettable ones, Collingwood,” commentator James Brayshaw said.
But he didn’t make the same mistake with his next set shot to bring the Magpie Army to their feet.
Down by 27 points, Kysaiah Pickett almost produced a miracle for Melbourne with his quick snap.
He did produce their second goal midway through the term when he outbodied Jeremy Howe.
The Pies were patient as Melbourne tried to fight their way back into the contest.
Only a Nathan Murphy fingernail denied Pickett another goal when he set sail off a couple of steps from 50.
By half time, the Pies were up 33-16.
The arm-wrestle continued in the third term as neither side could break the goal deadlock.
Melbourne were wayward as they struggled to convert, and when Steven May coughed up the footy at half forward, the Magpies slingshotted – ending with Bobby Hill’s third goal of the night.
When Dan McStay goaled, suddenly the margin was out to 27 points and the Demons had issues midway through the third.
Tom Sparrow broke Collingwood’s goal streak, and when Alex Neal-Bullen caught Josh Daicos cold and nailed the resulting free kick, the Demons were still within striking distance.
But just as Melbourne appeared to have momentum, Jordan de Goey went bang off just a few steps to stand tall when his side needed him.
Mihocek landed heavily on his shoulder late in the term but remained out on the field.
Collingwood took a 25-point lead into the final term – with a 13-0 record when holding the three-quarter time advantage.
But the final quarter belonged to Melbourne as the Dees threw everything at the Pies.
Tom McDonald started Melbourne’s charge in the final term, and when Joel Smith added his first for the night the margin was cut to just 13 points.
When first May and then Petracca put their bodies on the line, McDonald couldn’t reward their efforts.
Jack Ginnivan finally got his shot in the match, with Darcy Cameron subbed out midway through the final term.
Tom Sparrow ran onto a brilliant forward tap and looked set to get the snap away before some desperate Pies defence nailed him.
But once again, Collingwood couldn’t clear and Bayley Fritsch got on the end of it – absolutely spraying his set shot.
Neither side could find an avenue to goal for almost 20 minutes before Petracca found Fritsch – and he wasted no time snapping from 15 metres out.
Pickett put a snap out of bounds on the full with less than three minutes to play as the Pies defence was under siege.
When Ginnivan ducked under a Clayton Oliver tackle, he was pinged for holding the ball – giving the Demons one last roll of the dice.
But Melbourne ran out of time and the Pies held on to book their preliminary spot.
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