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AFL 2020 Round 7 Review – Pies and Tigers replace some dropping teams at the top

It may have taken a bit longer than expected, but the cream began to rise to the top in Round 7. Multiple 2019 frontrunners returned to consistent form on the weekend, climbing up the ladder and adding some familiarity to proceedings.

Geelong 5.5 (35) defeated by Collingwood 8.9 (57)

In a highly built-up clash over at Optus Stadium, it was Collingwood who performed. Another fast start paved the way to a solid win, led by five-goal star Jordan De Goey.

Dangerfield a lone hand in a failing midfield

It was clear early on that the Cats were in for a long night.

Jack Crisp was one of many Pies who out-ran the Cats (Collingwood FC)

With Collingwood’s midfield, led by Adam Treloar, Taylor Adams and Scott Pendlebury, in fine form, Geelong were always going to struggle when captain Joel Selwood was forced to sit out the majority of the game with a hamstring injury. In his absence, Patrick Dangerfield wound back the clock to his Brownlow Medal winning form. He controlled everything in Geelong’s on-ball brigade, and kept the Cats in with a chance until late in the last quarter.

Can Collingwood’s defence be breached?

Thursday night marked the fifth time the Pies back six kept their opposition to under 40 points in 2020.

Without key intercept marker Jeremy Howe, Collingwood have found new defensive pillars in the athletic Darcy Moore and the tenacious Brayden Maynard. With Isaac Quaynor and Travis Varcoe adding real pace and bounce off of half-back, the new look Magpie defence is getting the job done.

No one knows how long Jordan De Goey will be available for due to finger surgery and an indecent assault charge, so the Pies attention now turns to finding a forward line structure that’ll benefit off of their defence’s stingy work.

Verdict: Geelong were taken down a peg on Thursday. Collingwood have the best defence in the league, and needs to hold its side together to challenge for the flag they crave.

Will Hoskin-Elliott takes to the skies in a close final quarter at Optus Stadium (Image by Paul Kane/Getty Images)

Essendon 7.9 (51) defeated by Western Bulldogs 14.9 (93)

In yet another Metricon Stadium clash, the Dogs rebounded from last week’s horror show against Carlton to boast a positive win. Essendon, with too many players out, couldn’t conjure up the effort to challenge their inspired opponents.

Some positive signs up forward for the Bombers

Essendon are missing many stars up forward, including the likes of Joe Daniher and Jake Stringer. It’s always going to take a massive toll, but their absence has given young prospects a chance to shine.

Will Snelling and Jayden Laverde both impressed on Friday, kicking goals up forward and bringing great pressure to account for their lesser-known teammates. With Anthony McDonald-Tipungwuti once again performing quietly, it was Laverde and Snelling who tackled hard and created goals inside attacking 50.

A ruckman to match the Bulldogs’ mids

The Bulldogs can say they have one of the better midfield groups in the league.

The Bulldogs look much better with Tim English in form (Image by Chris Hyde/Getty Images)

But one thing they have been missing is a consistent and dynamic ruckman. Tim English gave Dogs fans hope that he is the key, putting on a clinic in the first half against Andrew Phillips. He was the best player on the ground despite not winning the hit-outs – his around the ground action matched the standard of Brodie Grundy, Max Gawn and Todd Goldstein. Now, his goal is to do it week-in, week-out like the three big guns of the competition.

Verdict: Essendon will need to fight in the middle stages of the season if they are to make finals, while the Dogs have the ability to trouble good teams.

GWS 10.8 (68) defeated by Brisbane 13.10 (88)

In a powerhouse match, the Lions pulled away when it mattered to register a massive win on the road. With many home games coming up, Brisbane snatched four points to set up their season and give GWS some heartache.

Captain Coniglio responds

It’s unexpected to imagine Stephen Coniglio was on the precipice of being dropped.

Luckily, he avoided the axe, as the captain gave an inspired performance in the midfield on Saturday. 27 disposals helped Coniglio to lead the way alongside the returning Tim Taranto (two goals) and the reliable tagging of Matt de Boer. If it wasn’t for Coniglio and his select few performing teammates, the margin would have been a lot more for the Giants. Many bad headlines will come out of this loss, but none will concern Coniglio.

Cam Rayner gets a handball away on Saturday (Image by Mark Kolbe/ Getty Images)

Young guns get the job done

The most pleasing aspect about this win for the Lions was that they didn’t have to rely on Lachie Neale. The Brownlow Medal favourite was restricted to 20 touches, leaving Cam Rayner, Jarrod Berry and Dayne Zorko doing the heavy lifting.

Rayner only had a handful of touches, but his two goals came in important moments to steady the ship and pull the Lions over the line. Berry continues to go hard at the footy and win respect for his courage, while Zac Bailey popped up to kick a brace of valuable majors.

Verdict: GWS once again struggle with their kryptonite in consistency. Brisbane are headed to the top four for the second straight year if they continue this form.

Sydney 9.6 (60) defeated by Gold Coast 13.14 (92)

Two young and injury-impacted teams played out an entertaining match full of free play and vacant forward lines. In the end, Gold Coast’s maturity pulled them clear in the final quarter.

The young Suns celebrate a goal during their impressive road win (Gold Coast Bulletin)

A trio of positives to counter the massive outs

So many Swans sit out injured. No tall forwards, no experienced midfielders outside of Luke Parker.

A silver lining to this is that Will Hayward has been giving a lot more time in the middle, and he proved his worth with a telling effort on Saturday. Alongside Parker, the pair kept harassing Gold Coast’s midfield before sneaking forward to kick great goals. Another bonus is the rising form of Tom Papley, who continues to lead an aimless forward line. The season may be a write-off for the Swans, but they can put time into developing their young list.

Great pick-ups do the job for Gold Coast

Gold Coast desperately needed middle-aged talent to accompany their youth through. Lachie Weller is one trade done right; his polish and pace on the outside gives the Suns the perfect finisher for their hard work through the middle.

Brandon Ellis also gives direction and grunt to the on-ball brigade, while Hugh Greenwood had a terrific tough game on Saturday. The trio are all important to Gold Coast’s future, for their experience adds an additional edge to their 2020 hopes.

Young gun Izak Rankine was in fine form once again

Verdict: Sydney are in for a tough season – it’s time to continue playing their kids. Gold Coast are an improved side with an exciting balance.

Richmond 11.11 (77) defeated North Melbourne 2.11 (23)

The Tigers manage to keep producing, sliding home for another impressive victory over a Kangaroos outfit lacking confidence.

Where do they keep finding such talent?

It’s a fair question – Damien Hardwick has plenty of skill hidden in his list, and they are coming to the fore now.

With so many premiership stars on the sidelines, it’s been a group of unknown players who have given Richmond a boost.

Jake Aarts once again looked lively up forward, partnering Mabior Chol perfectly. Shai Bolton was dynamic and breathtaking in centre bounces with Marlion Pickett. The pick of the bunch was Derek Eggmolesse-Smith, who slotted into Bachar Houli’s role and performed wonderfully. His pace, dare and exquisite ball use set up the win early on – it’s amazing how much depth the Tigers have.

Shai Bolton (right) was dominant in the midfield on Saturday night (Richmond FC)

What’s happened to North?

Just a couple of rounds in the Roos were on track for a finals run.

Their consistency across the board made them a menacing team who held the potential to out-work better sides. Now, they have lost all of their confidence.

Luke McDonald continues to tag well, limiting Dustin Martin’s influence on the contest. He now has three scalps in three weeks. Shaun Higgins gave his all with 36 smooth touches, and Josh Walker tried to arrest the forward slump with some great marking. But Ben Brown and the other Roos continue to underperform, making North Melbourne’s top eight chances slimmer by the week.

Verdict: Richmond are now just as menacing as the last few years, while the Roos are slipping away incredibly quickly.

Carlton 9.7 (61) defeated by Port Adelaide 9.10 (64)

This contest went right down to the wire, with Carlton looking set to claim a scalp in this Round 7 clash. But some Robbie Gray magic after the siren stole victory for the Power.

Robbie Gray came up clutch for the Power (The Advertiser)

Plenty of positives for the Blues

They may not have been able to seal the deal, but Carlton were once again impressive on Sunday.

Sam Walsh was everywhere, taking a kamikaze defensive mark while also slotting two important goals. Michael Gibbons is quickly becoming a class midfielder, and Jack Martin’s pace and nous up forward is impressive to watch.

Harry McKay performed well again, booting three goals and benefiting from the reliable work of Patrick Cripps and Ed Curnow in the centre. Jacob Weitering continues to intercept down back well. It wasn’t Carlton’s day, but their squad has vastly improved.

Port Adelaide have some underrated defenders

If it weren’t for the rebounding aggression shown by Darcy Byrne-Jones, Tom Jonas and Ryan Burton, the Power wouldn’t have won this game.

Yes, Charlie Dixon was huge in kicking three goals and clunking six marks, while Zak Butters continued to mature and late in Peter Ladhams surprised everyone. But Byrne-Jones capped off a superb 12 month run of form with another dashing display that deserves recognition.

Jonas’ bravery in intercept marking is unheralded, and Burton’s steadiness off half-back was keeping the Power in the contest until he went off injured. Port Adelaide have many guns who steal the spotlight, but their attacking half-backs are critical to the fast brand of footy they play.

Verdict: Carlton can hold their heads high despite the heartbreak. Port Adelaide continue to win, and that’s all you can ask for.

It may have been a heartbreaking finish for the Blues, but they can believe in their well-led side (Carlton FC)

Hawthorn 7.6 (48) defeated by Melbourne 14.7 (91)

It was a lineball game until Melbourne destroyed the slower Hawks in a second half blitz. In doing so, the Dees looked to have rediscovered their running spark in the cruisy victory.

Where to for McEvoy?

Ben McEvoy started the season off brilliantly as a defensive tall who could intercept mark. He looked to have reinvigorated his game, only to see it come crashing down as Collingwood and GWS worked out how to expose his lack of pace.

Coming up against Max Gawn, Alastair Clarkson chose to move McEvoy into his traditional rucking position. It didn’t go so well.

McEvoy was smashed all day, looking rusty and lost in the ruck. He is now a massive headache for Clarkson, as he can’t find his old form to demand a spot. If it wasn’t for the defiance of Sam Frost and Will Day, McEvoy’s bad day could’ve been made even worse on the scoreboard.

Melbourne were all smiles on Sunday (AFL)

Are the Dees back?

It was the best Melbourne have played since the 2018 finals series.

Led by Gawn and the blistering Christian Petracca (29 touches and 14 score involvements), the Demons looked quick and played an entertaining game of attacking football.

Clayton Oliver and Jack Viney rediscovered their touch approach to centre clearances, while Sam Weideman and Luke Jackson provided great marking targets all day. If the ball fell to ground, Mitch Hannan, Bailey Fritsch and the thrilling Kysaiah Pickett crumbed to perfection and applied wonderful pressure. The inclusions of Steven May and Jake Lever down back is just starting to gel now – could better fortune be on the horizon for Simon Goodwin’s men?

Verdict: Hawthorn are a long way off the pace, but Melbourne are warming up nicely.

Christian Petracca (left) was instrumental in his side’s confidence-boosting win (Melbourne FC)

Fremantle 5.2 (32) defeated by West Coast 9.8 (62)

The latest instalment of the derby appeared to be close all day, only for the hardened Eagles to run away with a strong win to continue their winning streak.

Great clearance work bolsters Kennedy

In his 250th game, Josh Kennedy would’ve been looking to kick a handful of goals and lead his side to victory. He did just that, converting four majors and proving to be the difference in a low-scoring derby.

But his great game came off the back of some exhilarating midfield work. Nic Naitanui once again dominated the hit-outs, giving the deadly Elliot Yeo, Tim Kelly and Andrew Gaff first usage. The trio’s skill meant the Eagles could bust open the game with quick and direct clearances to one-on-one matchups. If West Coast can keep doing that, they will trouble all defences.

The Eagles all flock to Josh Kennedy during his man-of-the-match performance (Image by Paul Kane)

Improved efforts give the Dockers some cause for hope

It was another loss to their rivals, but Fremantle can’t be too disheartened.

With many big names out, Michael Frederick lit up Optus Stadium in his first game, using his pace to kick a great first goal. Andrew Brayshaw was his side’s best in another telling midfield effort, and Michael Walters was deadly whenever he had ball in hand.

Matt Taberner may have made a shocking mistake in the goal square, but his strong hands and presence up forward meant he was a valuable marking target for the Dockers. Rory Lobb also commanded the airway, and fed off the good work of Blake Acres.

Verdict: West Coast will scare all teams while they have a run of home games. Fremantle are improving – this patch of home fixtures may give them the perfect chance to chalk up more wins.

Adelaide 8.7 (55) defeated by St Kilda 12.6 (78)

It took a long time, but the Saints finally broke their Adelaide Oval and Crows hoodoo. Halfway through the last quarter the away side looked in danger of letting another lead slip, but some crucial goals pushed them out to a win.

Reilly O’Brien fought valiantly against St Kilda’s tall towers (Image by David Mariuz/ AAP)

Poor execution dents an improved effort for the Crows

Adelaide had every reason to win this game.

For the majority of the second half, the home team dominated proceedings and smothered St Kilda’s running game. With Reilly O’Brien winning the ruck and temporary captain Tom Doedee putting on a clinic down back, they had the means to put scoreboard pressure on the Saints. Ben Keays stemmed Jade Gresham for most of the game, yet the forward line couldn’t get the goals required.

Four consecutive misses costed Adelaide a shot at victory – some further misses by a rampant Taylor Walker in the final term also wasted a golden chance. Good signs are there, but the Crows are shooting themselves in the foot.

Fleet-footed brigade keep Saints out of danger

St Kilda may have gotten a chip off of their shoulder, but their effort was far from convincing for a top eight side. If the Saints want to make finals, they need to perform much better and consistently.

Max King can’t hold back his joy after slotting a crucial goal (Image by Sarah Reed/ News Corp Australia)

If it wasn’t for Jack Steele’s midfield masterclass and the constant pressure provided by Dan Butler, Dean Kent and Jack Lonie, St Kilda wouldn’t have squeezed home. The trio’s liveliness up forward created many opportunities out of nothing, and the impressive Max King also threatened to break the game open in the air. It was a lucky night, but the Saints can blame their crafty smalls for the win.

Verdict: Adelaide will get some luck and hopefully a win in the next few home games. St Kilda need to work harder and stop relying on too few.

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