Hawthorn v Collingwood: It finished as a 38-point win to the Hawks. If you thought they were flag favourites before the weekend they are even firmer now. Collingwood were competitive but they never seemed likely to head the Hawks, who led by two goals at quarter time, three at the half and four at the last change.
Both teams have injury/tribunal concerns from the match. Collingwood skipper Nick Maxwell is on report for the third-quarter tangle that left Hawthorn forward Paul Puopolo nursing a bloodied nose and Chris Tarrant delivered several love taps to Buddy Franklin that may or may not attract the attention of the match review panel.
Hawk Jordan Lewis withdrew from the team with a hamstring injury and they will anxiously monitor his recovery in the lead-up to their preliminary final.
The good news for Hawthorn is they have two weeks to prepare now. Already considered the team to beat, they will lay in wait for the winner of the Adelaide-Fremantle clash.
The good news for the Magpies is that forward Travis Cloke appears to have rediscovered his mojo, adding six goals to the five he kicked against Essendon in round 23. The bad news is that while Cloke has found it individually, the Magpies haven’t collectively. Their midfielders are winning too much ball for too little result and they are too reticent to apply defensive pressure. They will have their work cut out getting past West Coast.
Sydney v Adelaide: The old adage that defence wins finals shone through here. At quarter-time, with the Swans holding a slender lead in a tough, low-scoring tussle, it looked like a matter of time before the home team broke the shackles. At half-time, after Adam Goodes had produced a gem of a second quarter to help split this game open, Adelaide knew they were in trouble and they never recovered. Four goals down at three-quarter time they were close enough if good enough but they never looked likely to be good enough.
The Swans simply stopped Adelaide’s line-breaking runners from getting to the outside. Their possessions were hurried, their composure lost and their goalscoring opportunities were squandered in the panic.
This was a typical defensive Sydney masterpiece, controlling the tempo of the game when they could and applying enough pressure to stop Adelaide ever feeling like they were in control.
The unsung hero was Lewis Roberts-Thomson, who swung from attack to defence to cover the loss of Heath Grundy and was among his team’s best.
The good news for the Swans is a home preliminary final against the winner of West Coast and Collingwood, where they will regain the services of defender Grundy. The bad news is a hamstring injury for Ben McGlynn which will almost certainly keep him out of that preliminary final and may have ended his season.
The bad news for the Crows is the loss of Rising Star winner Daniel Talia to a broken arm. They have Fremantle ahead of them which probably means more of the same physical pressure that the Swans hurled at them on Saturday.
Fremantle v Geelong: The message here was that reputations count for nought once the ball is bounced. And if you are banking on them meaning anything, they can actually be a handicap.
That message was sent to the Cats in triplicate by a desperate Fremantle team in the opening 30 minutes of their final at the MCG on Saturday night.
The 5.7 to 0.1 scoreline left the Cats barely alive. They mustered significant resistance in the second quarter but each time they managed an uprising, Fremantle managed to put it down again.
This was Fremantle’s most significant win – their first in an away final.
It was one of Matthew Pavlich’s most significant performances in a string of such efforts this season as the captain’s game has headed to a new level. His six goals, three in the first quarter, put the finish on Fremantle’s grunt work further up the ground and gave them early belief.
Their unsung hero was Zac Dawson who stepped into the power defender’s role normally played by Luke McPharlin and held Tom Hawkins goalless. Dawson is creating quite a reputation for himself as a finals performer.
The bad news for the Dockers is that McPharlin is still at least a week away from getting over his hamstring but the Dockers will be hard pressed to absorb bad news at the moment. All they can see is Crows in the headlights on the road ahead.
The bad news for the Cats is that their sixth place on the ladder at the end of the home and away season was not a mirage or a magician’s trick. It was about where they were this season. Matthew Scarlett looks gone and some of their younger brigade received a rude finals awakening on Saturday night.
West Coast v North Melbourne: The Eagles were superb, the Kangaroos are developing a nasty reputation for producing absolute stinkers in finals.
West Coast had this one wrapped up at quarter-time, kicking 7.4 to 0.3 in an opening term blitz led by young forward Jack Darling and veteran Andrew Embley.
The Roos got smashed in transition, with the Eagles repeatedly breaking into space down the Chris Mainwaring wing on Patersons Stadium’s southern side.
The first-quarter deluge was punctuated by a nine-goal, last-quarter romp which saw Shannon Hurn and Quinten Lynch kick monster goals and any resistance the Kangaroos had left turn to vapour.
The good news for West Coast is that their 'A' game is now back and rolling. Ruckmen Dean Cox (in his 250th) and Nic Naitanui were dominant, midfielders Luke Shuey, Daniel Kerr and Scott Selwood were decisive and Darling (four goals), Embley (four goals), Josh Kennedy (Four goals) and Lynch (three) all hit the scoreboard.
The bad news is a nasty footy injury to star defender Beau Waters, who was taken from the field to hospital for scans.
Lynch faces likely MRP scrutiny for a late challenge on Scott McMahon in a marking contest in the first quarter but the Eagles will head to the MCG to face the Magpies with a head of steam up and a lot of confidence.
North Melbourne coach Brad Scott pulled no punches about his team’s effort after the game. He was prepared to give midfielders Andrew Swallow, Jack Ziebell and Ben Cunnington ticks for their hard work but he warned other team members had been exposed in the finals intensity. They face an interesting post-mortem on this one at Arden Street.