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Fremantle strangles the Dees

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Freemantle thrash Melbourne

Fremantle continue their charge toward the top of the AFL ladder with a convincing 63 point victory over Melbourne in Darwin.

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FREMANTLE 2.1 6.3 13.5 15.7 (97) MELBOURNE 0.2 1.5 3.7 4.10 (34)
Goals: Fremantle: H Ballantyne 3 D Pearce 2 T Mzungu 2 Z Clarke 2 A Sandilands C Mayne C Sutcliffe L Neale M Barlow N Suban. Melbourne: C Dawes D Kent M Jamar R Bail.
BEST Fremantle: Fyfe, Barlow, Neale, Ibbotson, Muzungu, Suban, C.Pearce Melbourne: McDonald, M.Jones, Frawley, Tyson.
Umpires: Jeff Dalgleish, Dean Margetts, Jordan Bannister.
Official Crowd: 9290 at TIO Stadium.

This Darwinian struggle between Demons and Dockers was about survival, not of the fittest, but of the most miserly. The winner would be the one who yielded the least.

Predictably, the team that emerged with the four points and a tidy percentage boost was Fremantle, which is already versed and practised in the art of shutdown footy.

Nathan Fyfe of the Dockers and Max Gawn of the Demons compete for the ball.

Nathan Fyfe of the Dockers and Max Gawn of the Demons compete for the ball. Photo: Getty Images

Time
Q4 27:30
Team
MFC
Score
4.10.34
Team
FRFC
Score
15.7.97
Melbourne versus Fremantle
View Match Statistics
Players Dawes (1.2), Kent (1.1), Bail (1.0), Jamar (1.0), Watts (0.2), Grimes (0.1), Jones (0.1), Salem (0.1), Terlich (0.1) Scorers Ballantyne (3.1), Pearce (2.1), Clarke (2.0), Mzungu (2.0), Sutcliffe (1.1), Barlow (1.0), Mayne (1.0), Neale (1.0), Sandilands (1.0), Suban (1.0), Apeness (0.1), Fyfe (0.1), Morabito (0.1), Sylvia (0.1)

What Paul Roos is seeking to instil, Ross Lyon has engraved in the minds and reflexes of his players. The Dees could produce only one goal in the opening half - and this required an outlandish solo effort from Dean Kent.

The Dockers were willing to give up possessions, but they ceded neither territory nor goals. At half-time, Melbourne had entered its forward 50 only 13 times to Fremantle's 29.

Yet, Fremantle's crushing wasn't entirely about strangling its prey. The Dockers also have players who can create, who can use the ball and who can finish. By late in the second quarter, it was evident that Melbourne's challenge had peaked, and that while Roos' team has excelled at damage control, and avoiding blow outs, this was an instance when the damage would not be contained.

That Fremantle managed such a comfortable victory without its principal forward, Matthew Pavlich, would have pleased purple people. That Anthony Morabito returned from his awful streak of knee reconstructions (three) and emerged uninjured would have pleased them more.

The Demons' containment method held up for about 40-45 minutes, before they wilted in the face of a physically stronger, more experienced and skilful opponent. The momentum turned midway through the second quarter, after Jack Grimes had a shot from 15-20 metres that would have drawn the Dees to within a kick. Once the young skipper missed, the Dockers nailed three wonderful goals - a classy long shot to Danyle Pearce, a superb mark one out by Tendai Mzungu and then a curling left foot snap from Hayden Ballantyne, who slotted three from few opportunities in his 100th game.

Suddenly, the margin was almost five goals. When you play Fremantle, a 28-point half-time deficit is the equivalent of eight goals against most sides.

And, having completely smothered the Demons in the opening half, Fremantle found its attacking bent in the third quarter, with seven goals to two; it moved the ball with far greater finesse, won the key contests - particularly in the midfield, where Michael Barlow and Nat Fyfe were supreme - and converted with considerable skill - as evident in the fine finishing of Chris Mayne, Barlow, Pearce, Lachie Neale, who was among the most productive Dockers.

Melbourne had pushed Port to the limit in its previous excursion to the Northern Territory (Alice Springs), this match represented different territory - not geographically speaking-- but because Fremantle is a different frontier.

True to the anticipated script, neither team scored a goal for the first 14 minutes as the sides sparred without landing a blow. The Dockers eventually pierced the Dee defence on a coast-to-coast goal from a kick in, finished off by Sutcliffe. Ballantyne, given an unconventional match-up in Colin Garland, marked and slotted his first.

The Demons had plenty of possessions but little potency. There wasn't much forward progress - many Melbourne kicks were moved sideways, as the Dockers hemmed them in. Initially, there were occasions when it appeared as if this match was being played with an offside rule Roos had chosen to deploy James Frawley behind the ball, rather than in attack. Frawley, whose contractual future is uncertain, was sturdy in defence. Tom McDonald was likewise an effective player down back - which was where the ball was usually located. The Dees were outgunned in the midfield, where Nathan Jones was subdued and Bernie Vince copped the very hard tag from Ryan Crowley.

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