FREMANTLE has charged home to knock off a valiant Carlton, booting three quick goals in the last nine minutes of the match to win by four points.
Sabreena Duffy kicked a dribbler from the goalsquare and a bomb from 50m before Gemma Houghton – who had been blanketed the entire match by Charlotte Wilson – marked and converted from 30m for 6.9 (45) to 65 (41) win.
BLUES v DOCKERS Full match coverage and stats
Carlton needed to win this match to keep its finals hopes alive, and the team's first quarter – traditionally its weakest this year – was a reflection of the situation, leading by 21 points at the first break.
The visitors responded in the second term as any good team should, drastically increasing their tackle pressure and locking the ball inside their attacking half.
Fremantle had trailed Carlton in the contested ball count by 18 in the first quarter. But the back of some hard work from Kiara Bowers, Hayley Miller and Duffy, the Dockers reversed that in the second term to win that quarter's tally by eight.
The sides traded goals in the third term, with Gibbs converting a composed shot on the run, followed by an excellent set shot near the boundary from Jasmin Stewart and then a clean front-and-centre crumb from the ever-dangerous Georgia Gee.
Nicola Stevens' powerful season across half-forward continued, kicking a vital goal – her second – at the start of the final term to the roar of the Carlton faithful, but it was the last Carlton score for the match.
Bowers' elite endurance held her in good stead with a 28-disposal, 10-tackle and 10-clearance performance, while Ebony Antonio and Steph Cain (14 each) held their wings well.
Carlton's defensive combination of Wilson, Kerryn Harrington and Mua Laloifi held up for all but the final 10 minutes of the match, while in-form Dockers key back Janelle Cuthbertson had an intriguing battle with Tayla Harris, taking the chocolates.
With Harris returning from a week off and fellow key forward Serena Gibbs retaining her place in the side, Al Downie was employed in defence.
The ladder now
With Collingwood still to play, Fremantle has now retaken top spot on the ladder by a mere three per cent and look assured of its third straight finals appearance. The situation is much more dire for Carlton. With winnable games to come against Greater Western Sydney and Gold Coast, the Blues will be sweating on Melbourne – the closest team by percentage – dropping its upcoming matches to Fremantle and Brisbane by a considerable margin.
Blink and you'll miss it
Carlton ruck Breann Moody got away with a moment of madness in the third term after marking the ball deep in Fremantle's defence. She turned and decided to rush the ball through in quite an unorthodox manner – kicking it through as if it were her own goals. The behind was paid, a free kick to Fremantle was not, and the Blues retained possession.
Defensive Bowers strengthens best and fairest claims
Fremantle coach Trent Cooper said the Dockers planned to have Kiara Bowers play a quasi-defensive job on reigning AFLW best and fairest Maddy Prespakis, except when the Blue rested forward. Judging by the former's performance, Prespakis may well be handing the medal over to the Docker next month. Bowers beat the young gun in the best way possible, by winning her own footy, recording 28 disposals (after just four in the first term), 10 tackles and 10 clearances.
"We always thought we were a chance, because we're a pretty fit side and we had the scoring end, but needing three goals with six minutes and six seconds to go, it wasn't looking great at this stage. Our pressure (was where we won it), and that was where it was lost early. They are an amazing handball side, they're the best in the comp, and we wanted to keep their handball efficiency low. The first quarter, they were at 87 per cent." – Fremantle coach Trent Cooper
"A few things went wrong, we tripped over a couple of times, had a free kick go against us which got momentum and territory back their way. It was a little five-minute window of disaster from our perspective. Nothing we did wrong, it was just the way the game unfolded. That's why it's so difficult to take. We didn't do too much wrong, but they did a lot right in the end." – Carlton coach Daniel Harford
If plans aren't changed due to the positive COVID-19 case in Brisbane, Carlton will travel to Metricon Stadium to play Gold Coast on Friday night. Fremantle will be back on its home deck but face a Melbourne side full of confidence after knocking off Adelaide.
CARLTON 3.4 3.5 5.5 6.5 (41)
FREMANTLE 0.1 2.3 3.7 6.9 (45)
Carlton: Stevens 2, Vescio, Harris, Gibbs, Gee
Fremantle: Stewart 2, Duffy 2, Cain, Houghton
Carlton: Harrington, Stevens, Moody, Prespakis, Vescio, Laloifi
Fremantle: Bowers, E. Antonio, Duffy, Cain, Pugh, Stewart
Crowd: 2048 at Ikon Park
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