Eric Hipwood kicked four goals to help Brisbane bury their MCG hoodoo with a thrilling AFL semifinal comeback win over bogey side Melbourne. The Lions rallied from 28 points down late in the second quarter, kicking 11 goals to five after half-time to snatch a 14.8 (92) to 11.13 (79) victory in front of 62,162 fans.
The see-sawing affair continued a bumper finals series after a thrilling opening week. It was Brisbane’s first win at the MCG since 2014, ending an 11-match losing streak, and came after four straight defeats to the Demons by an average of 44 points over the last two years.
The Lions are now into a preliminary final against minor premiers Geelong, while Melbourne’s dream of back-to-back flags is over.
Brisbane have some concern over midfielder Jarrod Berry, who will come under scrutiny for putting his hand near Clayton Oliver’s eyes in a third-quarter incident that sparked a fierce scrap between the pair.
The contributions of Hipwood and Charlie Cameron (three goals) in attack were huge as the Lions overcame the late withdrawal of key forward Joe Daniher through personal reasons.
Brisbane champion Lachie Neale was also influential, overcoming a slow start to finish with 26 disposals, 18 contested possessions and 10 clearances. Fill-in ruckman Darcy Fort, Hugh McCluggage and Dayne Zorko were also important.
Oliver fought hard for the Demons with 21 disposals and nine clearances despite close checking throughout the match from Deven Robertson and Berry. Christian Petracca was Melbourne’s top disposals winner with 27, brushing off concerns over a minor fracture in his fibia and corked calf.
But the Demons wasted chances in attack and were flat after the main break as Brisbane caused a major upset.
The contest was billed as a grudge match after the sledging saga that revolved around Dayne Zorko’s unsavoury comments, which reduced Melbourne defender Harrison Petty to tears when the teams met last month.
The Brisbane captain was jeered by the home crowd whenever he went near the ball and teammate Lincoln McCarthy made a “crying” gesture to Petty during one heated moment before halftime.
Melbourne’s clearance dominance was telling early and a 22-point margin at the main break would have been larger if not for inaccuracy and a late Lions goal through Callum Ah Chee just before the siren.
The Demons doubled their opponents’ tally in the first half, kicking 6.8 to 3.4. But five consecutive goals drew Brisbane level in the third term before quick replies through Bayley Fritsch and Alex Neal-Bullen wrested back momentum for the Demons.
It swung again and the Lions were level at three-quarter time, with Fort nailing a long set shot and Hipwood pouncing to kick his fourth after Dan McStay caught Trent Rivers holding the ball.
McStay put the Lions in front for the first time with the opening goal of the final term and they led by 20 points before late goals to Petty and Ed Langdon made for some nervous moments in the final three minutes.
But a free kick and 50-metre penalty against Demons defender Jake Lever gifted McStay the sealer on the goal line with one minute left. The preliminary final will be Brisbane’s second under Chris Fagan, who has improved his finals record to 3-5.