Carlton’s comfortable win over Brisbane has them knocking on the door of the AFL top eight, but coach Brendon Bolton is keeping the lid firmly on the surging Blues.
Carlton made it six wins from their past seven starts with the 16.6 (102) to 9.10 (64) victory at Etihad Stadium on Saturday to improve to a 6-5 record.
After losing the first four games of the campaign, Bolton’s rebuild appears well ahead of where even the most optimistic fan could have hoped but the first-year coach isn’t reassessing his goals for the season.
“We want to be defined by our pressure – we were inconsistent in that today,” Bolton said after the 38-point win.
“By and large, though, we’ve been pretty good (with that) but only a few weeks ago we got a fair touch-up by North … we can’t look too far ahead – the competition is too tight and strong for that.”
With skipper Marc Murphy out injured and Bryce Gibbs well held, Ed Curnow, Sam Kerridge and Patrick Cripps did the heavy lifting in the midfield, while Zach Tuohy and Sam Docherty provided the drive off half-back.
Jacob Weitering and Josh Schache, the first and second selections at 2015’s draft, spent plenty of time matched against each other and the Blues’ No.1 pick handily won that battle, finishing with 24 possessions and 14 marks.
It’s perhaps a measure of how far Carlton have come that Bolton wasn’t overly enthused by the performance.
The Blues weren’t in the sort of touch that propelled them to a superb win over Geelong last week at the same venue, but they still had the struggling visitors covered, kicking away to a 24-point lead at quarter-time and extending their advantage to 39 at halftime.
But after managing just one goal in the first half, Brisbane sprang to life after the break.
Playing a quicker, more direct style, the Lions at least made it a contest as they slashed the margin to 21 points.
But their charge was short-lived, with the Blues restoring their 39-point break by three-quarter time before easing to the finish line.
In his first game back from a hamstring injury, Lions skipper Tom Rockliff gathered 48 disposals and former Blue Mitch Robinson shut Gibbs down but the pair had precious little support.
“We kicked ourselves out of it. I think I’ve said that a few times this year, particularly in the early part of the game,” Lions coach Justin Leppitsch said.
“(But) our contested footy clearance stuff was terrific. You could almost say that we dominated that part of the game but that’s not everything … we just let ourselves down with some skill errors that they capitalised on.”
Both sides finished a player down on the bench: Carlton’s Matthew Kreuzer had a concussion and Lions forward Allen Christensen suffered a shoulder injury in the second quarter.