Buddy Franklin and Chris Tarrant get up close and personal.HAWTHORN presented its impeccable premiership credentials at the MCG last night. On a wintry night, and a bleak one for Collingwood, the Hawks weathered the Magpies’ early and ferocious storm to win the first final of 2012 by six goals and change. It earned the Hawks a week off before a preliminary final, but the Magpies must lick their many wounds and play a semi-final next week.
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The match properly reflected Hawthorn’s evenness and mastery this season, and conversely exposed frailties Collingwood has found harder and harder to plaster over in the last month.

The wellspring of Hawthorn’s victory was the educated hands and feet of former captain Sam Mitchell. It was consummated by three bursts of four successive goals, shared by 11 players. That is the sort of collective bounty that marks out smoothly functioning premiership teams. For Collingwood, rejuvenated Travis Cloke kicked six goals and reborn Andrew Krakouer kicked four, but the rest of its pickings were thin.

Until Hawthorn stole its winning march, the contest was bruising in a finals sort of way, and exacted a toll on both teams. Hawthorn’s Brendan Whitecross appeared to suffer a grave knee injury in the first quarter. Unfussed, the Hawks all moved up one and did not miss a beat; this has been their hallmark this season. Collingwood captain Nick Maxwell was reported after bloodying Paul Puopolo’s nose. The next few days will be uncomfortable for both players.

The start of the game was manic, almost vicious. Chris Tarrant versus Franklin typified it; their contest would be counted not in quarters, but rounds. It was as if Collingwood especially was defending an honour that had not yet been offended. Pre-game, Hawthorn had lost Jordan Lewis, and now Whitecross was lost in skirmishes.

It took 17 torrid and gut-wrenching minutes for either side to kick a goal. Collingwood, improvising, briefly led, but a late flurry thrust the Hawks to a 22-point lead early in the second quarter. It established the night’s status quo.

Fatigue became a factor as early as the second quarter; it was as if two beaten-up teams called a truce. Consequently, the football became more orthodox in the modern way, shuffling from clump to clump. The scoring came in bursts at each end. After Hawthorn, biblically, missed three times in a row, Collingwood kicked three in a row to gain an improbable lead. The signature effort was from Heath Shaw, provocateur-in-chief, turned pack-marking forward. But three goals from Hawthorn righted the scoreboard. The last was Franklin’s after the siren; a mobbing ensued.

Six of Hawthorn’s nine first-half goals were kicked in time-on. They proved a wonderful tonic to fatigue. The second half began ominously for Collingwood when Cloke marked in front of goal, only to be stripped because of a free kick paid to Franklin against Tarrant in the middle of the ground, leading to a goal for David Hale. Methodical, unflinching Hawthorn stretched its lead to six goals. Though plainly outmatched, Collingwood clung on through two late goals to the estimable Cloke.

But another run of four goals to now rampant Hawthorn at the start of the last quarter rapidly expanded its lead to eight, reduced the Magpies to rabble and put a summary end to this final.

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