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  • Rikki Lambert

Pies overcome pandemic Blues but no world record attendance

The crowd of 51,723 at the Carlton-Collingwood AFL match at the MCG was a record figure for a sports event in the southern hemisphere since the pandemic began.

Hopes of a world record stadium attendance for a sporting event since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic were dashed despite 51,723 fans turning out at the Melbourne Cricket Ground for the match between Carlton and Collingwood.

Authorities in Victoria had on Tuesday lifted a cap on crowds at sporting events to 75% from 50% of stadium capacity after declaring the state officially COVID-free.

That would have allowed a maximum of 75,000 fans, without masks, to pack the 100,000-seater MCG for the Carlton-Collingwood AFL match.

The crowd for one of Australian sport's oldest and fiercest rivalries was the biggest for any sporting fixture in the southern hemisphere since the shutdown of sport caused by the pandemic last year.

It bettered the 49,218 who turned out at the MCG last week for Carlton's match against Richmond.

It was, however, well short of the 67,200 and 66,352 fans the first two Twenty20 cricket matches between India and England attracted to the 132,000-capacity Narendra Modi Stadium in Ahmedabad earlier this month.

But the AFL will be confident of surpassing those marks with a match at the MCG before too long.

The MCG hosted 86,174 at the Women's T20 World Cup final between Australia and India on March 8, 2020 before social distancing rules banned mass gatherings for several months.

On the field, Collingwood tamed arch-rivals Carlton, winning their AFL clash by 21 points in front of 51,273 fans at the MCG.

Collingwood have put an off-season of tumult behind them to hold off arch-rivals Carlton by 21 points in a fast-paced AFL clash at the MCG.

Inspired by dynamite forward Jordan De Goey and defender Darcy Moore, the Magpies carved through a leaky Blues defence while their own back-half stood up admirably.

Collingwood survived multiple challenges from Carlton on Thursday night but the Magpies' 30-point lead early in the second quarter proved enough as they won their first game of the season 16.10 (106) to 13.7 (85) in front 51,723 fans.

The Blues dominated the third quarter and had opportunities to push in front but simply could not penetrate a Moore-led Collingwood defence.

Carlton dominated the term with 17 inside-50s to the Magpies' eight entries as the ball was camped deep near the Blues' goal for extended periods but they were unable to capitalise on the dominance.

On the other hand, Collingwood were far more efficient going forward with their 48 inside-50s to the Blues' 60.

After the departure of key personnel, on and off the field, during the off-season, as well as the release of the Do Better report, the win gives the Magpies something to cheer about again.

Collingwood coach Nathan Buckley said:

"We didn't play particularly well (against the Western Bulldogs) last week and we think there's still so much growth on what we put forward tonight.
"But we think that was a more Collingwood performance in regards to our effort and our defensive shape and we've kicked 100 points."

Moore's duel with Carlton's Harry McKay was a must-watch, with the All-Australian defender one of the best players on the ground despite the Blues' spearhead slotting four majors.

De Goey again showed that when he is on song Collingwood rarely lose as he set the game alight with four first-half goals.

Fellow forward Brody Mihocek popped up with three goals, including the sealer late in the final term.

The underrated Jack Crisp had a career-best night with 36 possessions for the Magpies, while All-Australian Taylor Adams was also outstanding.

Collingwood do have an injury concern with dynamic forward Jamie Elliott subbed out of the game in the second quarter with a suspected serious ankle injury after kicking two early goals.

His replacement Trey Ruscoe put in a serviceable cameo with a vital goal in the last quarter which broke a spirited Blues run.

Former Greater Western Sydney speedster Zac Williams made a hot start in his first game for the Blues but his impact waned as the contest wore on.

Jack Martin was Carlton's best with three goals, while Michael Gibbons bobbed up with some goal-of-the-year contenders.

The Blues, who entered the season full of hype, have again slumped to a 0-2 record which they have done every year since 2013.

Blues coach David Teague said:

"They beat us around the contest early and I have to give Collingwood the credit, they were strong and competed hard.
"They won more contested possession and out-tackled us so that was really disappointing."

-- with AAP


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