Elliott seals deal as Magpies’ winning run goes on – somehow

Collingwood are in the top four, but even they must wonder how.

Wonder was the applicable word at the MCG on Sunday as the Magpies established a six-goal lead over Essendon, gave it all up to trail by 20 points early in the last quarter, then when seemingly out on their feet came again for a four-point win. Jamie Elliott won it with a kick from the boundary line as the final siren rung in his ears. It was the Pies’ ninth life, sometime past the 11th hour.

Jamie Elliott kicks a goal after the siren to win the game for the Magpies.Credit:AFL Photos

This was Collingwood’s ninth win in a row, the sixth by fewer than two goals. Just when you might have thought they had used up all their get-out-of-jail free cards, they found another. Assuming that Billy Picken has completed his entrance formalities in football heaven, you imagine he was looking down with that indelible trademark grin.

And yet it so easily might not have been. Collingwood’s flying start featured one of everything. There was a Mason Cox screamer, channelling a flying tarantula. There was Josh Daicos’ submission for goal of the year, in which he handballed around an opponent to himself, took two bounces along the boundary line before stepping inboard to score. In the stands, even father Peter’s eyes widened.

There was a trio of goals for second-gamer Ash Johnson: what rich pickings the mid-season draft has provided for the Pies. And there was the next chapter in the Jack Ginnivan saga, in which he was not merely taken around the neck by Essendon’s Mason Redman, but placed in a noose – and still the free kick was not paid. What a cross the AFL has made for umpires to bear.

Collingwood were organised in everything they did. For the Bombers, there was a series of centre clearances, and that was it. They did not have a single disposal in their forward 50. The problem was not lack of incoming ball, but its tardiness.

Collingwood players swamp Jamie Elliott after his goal.Credit:AFL Photos

But that was all she said for the Magpies. The change when it came in the second quarter was as sudden and bracing as the arrival of a cold front. Essendon controlled the next two-and-a-half quarters. Sam Draper assumed authoritative control in the ruck, Zach Merrett and the once maligned, now magisterial Dylan Shiel further shredded the Magpies at stoppages, and the Bombers’ centre-clearance dominance fruited as they exercised more discretion going forward.

They kicked the first five goals of the second quarter, all from powerful marks, making 11 in a row at the city end. Now it was the Magpies who were made to look like incidentals. The signal moment was when Scott Pendlebury committed possibly the worst turnover of his 351-game career.

Only when Cox began to reprise Brisbane’s Clark Keating from the early 2000s by thumping the ball forward from ball-ups did the Pies steady. It was unscientific, but effective, and led eventually to a steadying goal as the Pies bundled the ball at breakneck speed down the corridor.

In the third quarter, it was more of the same. Draper grew in stature, Merrett and Shiel assumed complete control at ground level and, ominously, Jake Stringer imposed himself. Ascendent Draper and Merrett was Anzac Day reprised. Darcy Moore gave Peter Wright too much latitude and Wright gave Moore gratitude. With the confidence of a three-game winning surge replete within them, the Bombers looked unstoppable.

Meantime, Collingwood’s midfield disappeared without trace. Early in the last quarter, the Bombers led by 20 points, having kicked 11 of the previous 13 goals in the match, and the Magpies’ magic carpet ride looked over.

Within desperation, there arose inspiration. Somehow, the Pies kicked the last four goals of the match. Though barely able to lift their feet, the Pies reasserted themselves in the corridor. Veteran Elliott kicked two goals, mid-season draft speculation Josh Carmichael the other two, all four nerveless set shots. If you’re not sure how the Magpies won, that’s because they ad libbed it. It’s become that sort of year.

NEXT JOB

Outgoing AFL supremo Gil McLachlan was spotted in the umpires’ dug-out on the boundary line during the second quarter. No, we don’t know either, but we doubt it was for a job interview.

ALL AROUND THE NECK

The AFL’s panicky revision of the interpretation of the head-high tackles rule came into focus at Jack Ginnivan’s first approach to the ball. As he gathered, he did raise his arm – but as a reflex to the high tackle that the Bombers’ generally excellent Mason Redman already was laying on him. No free kick was paid, the crowd howled, the game went on. For umpires, it is not so much a case of the player’s arms around the neck as the millstone around theirs.

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