The GWS Giants have put themselves back into the top eight after a last quarter comeback saw them claim a narrow 9-point victory over the Carlton Blues at Metricon Stadium on the Gold Coast.
Despite squandering many chances early, the Giants kicked four goals to none in the last quarter to seal a 6.12 (48) to 5.9 (39) victory.
The Giants controlled much of the early proceedings but were unable to capitalise in front of goals and went into quarter time kicking 1.5 to the Blues’ 4.0 to trail by 13 points.
Despite perfect conditions on the Gold Coast, both sides’ skills butchered the footy in the second quarter around the ground and in front of goal.
The Giants went into the half time break having kicked a paltry 1.9, but only trailed the Blues by 12 points.
Both sides came into the game desperate for a win, with the Demons surprise loss to the Swans earlier in the night meaning the Giants would leapfrog them into the top eight, while the Blues were trying to cling to a small chance of playing finals.
With so much on the line, there were expectations both teams would come out firing after the half time break, but it was just more of the same as they struggled to move the ball forward effectively.
The Giants kicked an early goal in the second half through Jeremy Finlyason but could not capitalise on their momentum.
Marc Murphy kicked a late goal for the Blues to extend their lead to 15 points coming into the last quarter.
15 points may not seem like much but given the Giants had only kicked two goals in the first three quarters, it looked like a long way away.
The Giants went into the game with four tall forwards after Finlayson was recalled to partner Jeremy Cameron, Harry Himmelberg and last week’s rising star, Jake Riccardi. They were all having quiet nights having kicked just the one goal between them, but they were going to need one of them to step up and deliver in the last quarter.
The 20-year-old Riccardi was the man to step up for the Giants as some fast ball movement from the backline saw him sneak out the back and bring the Giants to within nine points early into the last quarter.
Not even two minutes later, Riccardi took a huge pack mark and walked back with confidence to have a shot. From just outside the 50 metre line, Riccardi launched a bomb that never looked like missing and suddenly the Giants were back to within just three points and with all the momentum.
In game number 50, Harry Perryman desperately spoiled a ball into his own attacking 50 metre area, before chasing it down to run into an open goal and give the Giants the lead with still over 11 minutes to go.
From having kicked two goals in three quarters of footy, the Giants suddenly had three goals in six minutes playing a much more aggressive style and taking more risks.
Riccardi was involved in the next Giants goal with a lovely tap on to Daniel Lloyd who delivered a pinpoint pass to Bobby Hill about 30 metres away from goal.
Hill went back and drilled the goal to extend the Giants lead to nine points with under nine minutes to go.
There were a few nervous moments late in the match with the Blues on the attack, but the Giants defence, led by Nick Haynes and Lachlan Keefe, kept Carlton at bay to seal victory.
Toby Greene was instrumental in the Giants win, kicking a goal to go with his 19 disposals and six score involvements while Haynes was incredible in defence once again.
However, the most plaudits must be saved for Riccardi who in just his third game of AFL sensed the moment when the game was on the line and delivered for his team.
Riccardi’s stellar start to his career has placed the spotlight on his more senior underperforming forward line teammates and, in particular, Jeremy Cameron.
Jonathan Brown went so far as to say last year’s Coleman Medalist “should be embarrassed” by his performance.
The Giants are now eighth on the ladder with just three games remaining until finals. Their next match is against the Adelaide Crows at Adelaide Oval on Tuesday 8 September.