Seventh heaven: Lions roar into finals as Blues bid Simpson farewell

The Brisbane Lions will head into the AFL finals buoyed by seven-straight wins, completing this surge with a 17-point victory over a Carlton side which bade farewell to a club great on Saturday night.

The victory at the Gabba propelled the Lions into top spot on the ladder and they could secure the minor premiership for the first time in club history should Port Adelaide lose to Collingwood in the final match of the home-and-away round on Monday night. Regardless, they already have a home final locked in, with the lure of a Gabba grand final as even more incentive to build on last year's straight sets exit.



Coach Chris Fagan wanted his side to use a top-of-the-ladder finish as motivation and that was on show in the second term when they ripped this contest open.

Onballer Lachie Neale and half-back Daniel Rich were dominant around the ball and Jarryd Lyons was also busy but, for the Blues, Patrick Cripps took a knock to his troublesome left shoulder that would ultimately end his night at three quarter-time.

Sam Walsh had 11 touches in the first term and capped his second year with another strong performance but the Blues lacked overall drive. Their poor disposal didn't help, and destroyed the good start they had made.

Jacob Weitering's attempt at clearing the ball from defence resulted in Cam Rayner converting a set shot and there was more pain when Jack Newnes, in a similar scenario, was also guilty of a shoddy kick, which resulted in Mitch Robinson having the first of his two for the night against his former team.



In the blink of an eye, the Lions had five straight goals in driving rain, the ninth time this year the Blues had conceded a burst of such a magnitude and a major reason why they are not playing in the finals. Little wonder Teague was angry and animated with his players at the main break.

Lions match-winner Charlie Cameron hurt his ankle on the cusp of half-time when tackled by Lachie Plowman but played out the match. Lions defender Callam Ah Chee was superb all night, completing eight intercept marks.

Having endured a tough year, Mitch McGovern was sent to defence for most of the night, looked settled and his future with the Blues may lay there. The Blues rallied in the third term but a goal after the siren by Rayner from a questionable push in the back by Walsh proved critical.

Farewell old mate

Given the pre-match honour of calling at the coin toss in his 342nd – and final – match, Kade Simpson soon found himself in the thick of things, when accidentally knocked in the head in the first term. He crashed to the ground and initially feared he had shattered a tooth but, typically, soon got to his feet. Teammates reacted with joy when he opened the third term with a running goal.

Brownlow bid

Neale is likely to have strengthened his Brownlow Medal claims, enjoying 29 touches, a week after Swans' tagger Ryan Clarke had held him to only 15 disposals in Cairns. The Blues opted to have Ed Curnow go to him at stoppages but Neale was then allowed him to run free. Neale, at 177cm, also had a moment to savour when he held his ground and outmarked the 201cm Levi Casboult in a one-on-one duel in the first term.

What about me

Eric Hipwood and Cameron dominate the headlines when it comes to the Lions' forward line but the importance of Lincoln McCarthy cannot be underestimated. He is averaging a goal a game and, having returned to the side, made his presence felt with two goals in the first term.

No rush

The Lions have now won nine of 10 matches when star defender Harris Andrews has been unavailable, which should raise spirits should he not return from a hamstring strain in time for the finals. It's now just over a fortnight since Andrews was hurt.

BEST

Brisbane: Neale, Rich, Ah Chee, Lyons, Starcevich
Carlton: Walsh, Kennedy, Newnes, Kennedy

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