Melbourne coach Paul Roos might still be enjoying a honeymoon period with Demons supporters, but much of the football world was not amused by his boa constrictor gameplan, which restricted the Queen’s Birthday match against Collingwod to 11 goals.
Collingwood’s 8.13 (61) to 3.10 (28) victory in front of 68,124 represented the lowest-scoring match between the two sides since the 1960 grand final.
The Pies have had good and bad wins in their 2014 campaign, but few as ugly as their eighth, a description coach Nathan Buckley agreed with after the game. “It won’t be on Footy Flashbacks,” he said. “There’s very little perfection in the world. Today was a contest.”
But he added: “I do care about the aesthetic of our game.”
The Queen’s Birthday fixture is Melbourne’s highest profile game of the year, when for once it is the centre of attention of the football world, but the Demons managed only two goals after Nathan Jones’ stunning snap in the first 30 seconds of the match.
Social media was awash with football fans complaining about the quality of the spectacle (see below). It was reminiscent of the controversy over the strangling tactics that Roos employed with so much success at Sydney in the mid-2000s, but which were criticised at the time by AFL chief Andrew Demetriou.
“You don’t go out to score three goals,” Roos said. “Scoring’s the result of what you do with the footy.
“I think we played well enough to score, but when you’re 70 or 80 metres out and you kick it straight to the opposition, it’s pretty hard to score. We had opportunities, but when we should have gone fast, we went slow, and when we should have gone slow we went fast.”
Melbourne midfielder Bernie Vince, asked about the gameplan, said bluntly: “That’s the way we think we can win games, but three goals won’t win you many.”
Fierce pressure from both teams and a preference for one-on-one contests ensured space was at a premium, and turnovers were far too prevalent. Melbourne’s spring-heeled defender Jeremy Howe provided a rare highlight when he took his usual ‘speccy’.
Both sides were guilty of butchering the ball, but the Magpies got better the longer the game went.
Dayne Beams, who along with skipper Scott Pendlebury had been subdued for most of the opening half, booted an all-important goal either side of three-quarter time.
Melbourne continued to press, but managed only three behinds before Jamie Elliott gave the Magpies a 25-point lead early in the final term.
It unsurprisingly proved an unassailable margin for a team that managed three goals total.
“We knew it was going to be a grind. All week they’ve been saying it’s their biggest game,” said Pendlebury, who finished with 26 touches to be one of his side’s best. “To keep them to three goals, we’re happy with that.”
It is Melbourne’s lowest score since Paul Roos took the reins at the end of the 2013 season. But given the Demons’ average losing margin of 71 points in the past three Queen’s Birthday encounters, it was another reminder of the competitive streak and defensive steel that Roos has quickly added.
Melbourne fans will bemoan a controversial decision from the umpires to recall the ball when Neville Jetta had dished it off to Vince, who looked to have kicked his second goal in the third term. Roos said he was bemused and frustrated by the call. Jetta tried to repeat the play and the second time gave a handball to a flying Lynden Dunn, but the defender couldn’t split the middle.
The Magpies then took control of the contest with three shots in the final minute of the third quarter, the last being the most damaging when Beams made the most of a poor turnover from Howe.
Among Collingwood’s best players were Jack Frost and Clinton Young, while Dunn was Melbourne’s best with a brilliant job at fullback on Travis Cloke.
With Rob Forsaith, AAP
— Sportsbet.com.au (@sportsbetcomau) June 9, 2014
— dfranc76 (@dfranc76) June 9, 2014
— Elliott Avis (@elliott_avis) June 9, 2014
Dees kicked first goal in 30 secs, only 2 more in rest of game. Ch7 comms can’t wait to praise them. Am i missing something? #AFLDeesPies
— RoDiddlyDogg (@rodiddlydogg) June 9, 2014