The Brisbane Lions tightened their grip on a top-four spot with a desperate eight-point win over Collingwood at this year’s grand final venue, however the win came at a cost with All-Australian defender Harris Andrews suffering a hamstring injury.
The Lions poured on the pressure in the second quarter, kicking the ball long and deep into their forward line and the Magpies wilted, conceding six of the eight goals kicked in the second and third quarters to keep them in a fierce battle for a spot in the top eight.
Instrumental in the Lions’ win were their young pair of top-20 picks from Ballarat – Hugh McCluggage and Jarrod Berry – and a pair of recruits in Lachie Neale and Jarryd Lyons, who kicked goals and won possessions when it mattered most with Brisbane’s only goals coming in the middle two quarters.
Scott Pendlebury was his reliable best for Collingwood but off a shorter break than their opponents Taylor Adams and Brodie Grundy were not able to provide the Magpies with the same spark as they had against Carlton.
Oscar McInerney beat Grundy to demonstrate how much he has improved this season, while Lions skipper Dayne Zorko broke the game open at times with his speed.
Jamie Elliott tried to do the same for the Magpies but his field kicking let him down at times, while Jaidyn Stephenson would have struggled to run through a banner as he struggles to find form.
Up forward the Magpies had long legs but no run in them and when Brody Mihocek dropped a sitter in the goal square when Collingwood needed a goal early in the last quarter it was clear the Lions were going to win. Only later did it become clear how crucial a spill it had been.
That the Lions won without kicking a goal in the first or final quarters shows how important their second-quarter blitz was in determining the result.
The game was no classic, with just 11 goals scored but it was like a final and will be useful for the Lions.
After both sides tried to play quicker than they were capable of in the first quarter there was only one goal scored.
Collingwood’s short kicks came up metres short of their targets, while the Lions rebounded without a plan.
Mihocek kicked the Magpies’ goal while the Lions’ set-shot kicking again let them down. Eric Hipwood missed a set shot, then Charlie Cameron failed to make the distance. Cameron Rayner completed the trifecta when he kicked out on the full late in the quarter.
However, after quarter-time the Lions increased their work rate and challenged the Magpies’ ball use. Collingwood were not up to the challenge, with their wayward handballs leading directly to Lions’ goals.
If a mulligan had been available Tom Phillips, Jack Magden and Brayden Maynard – who suffered a nasty corkie in the opening minutes – would have taken it, with the trio appearing as though they were using a medicine ball rather than a football as they repeatedly failed to reach the target.
The Lions kicked the first four goals of the second quarter to open up a 20-point lead.
The margin should have been greater, with the umpires giving Maynard more leniency than they had allowed any other player in 2020 when the defensive firebrand charged in to knock Mitch Robinson over as he celebrated a McCluggage goal.
The ensuing melee sparked the Magpies momentarily, with Pendlebury finding Mason Cox inside 50 and the American kicking the desperately needed goal.
In the end the Lions hung on and will fight now for a top-two spot.
The star full-back is vital to the Lions’ premiership chances, with the contenders Port Adelaide Richmond, Geelong and the Eagles all having power forwards. He had to sit on the bench with his hamstring on ice after half-time which might keep him out until the finals. The Magpies lost running forward Tom Phillips with a hamstring injury, while young Lions ruckman Tom Fullarton hurt his quad.
LIONS AT THE GABBA
Undefeated all season at the Gabba, the Lions have everything going their way in 2020 if they want to snag a premiership against more experienced competition.
BRISBANE LIONS 0.2 5.3 6.5 6.6 (42)
COLLINGWOOD 1.1 2.3 3.3 5.4 (34)
GOALS – Brisbane: Hipwood 2, Rayner, McCluggage, Lyons, Berry.
Collingwood: Cox 2, Elliott, Mihocek, Brown.
BEST – Brisbane: McCluggage, Berry, Neale, Lyons, McInerney.
Collingwood: Pendlebury, Noble, Crisp, Daicos, Elliott.
INJURIES – Brisbane: Andrews (hamstring), Fullarton (quad).
Collingwood: Phillips (hamstring).
UMPIRES Margetts, Rosebury, Fleer
CROWD 15,036 at the Gabba
Peter Ryan is a sports reporter with The Age covering AFL, horse racing and other sports.