ADELAIDE 4.4 8.7 13.10 16.13 (109) NORTH MELBOURNE 1.2 4.3 6.7 10.13 (73)
Goals: Adelaide: S Kerridge 4 E Betts 3 J Jenkins 2 J Podsiadly 2 T Walker 2 B Smith D Mackay M Wright. North Melbourne: L Thomas 4 B Harvey 2 D Petrie L Greenwood L Hansen R Bastinac.
BEST Adelaide: Smith, Sloane, Kerridge, Jacobs, Mackay, Talia. North Melbourne: Greenwood, Swallow, Dal Santo, Harvey, Thomas, Goldstein.
Umpires: Brett Rosebury, Jordan Bannister, Craig Fleer.
Official Crowd: 47,205 at Adelaide Oval.
The Grim Reaper lurked around the corner at Adelaide Oval on Saturday night expecting to leave with the Crows, but amazingly their finals pulse was still there – albeit barely – after beating North Melbourne.
Crows beat flat Roos
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How on earth did this match-winning point slip through?
Crows beat flat Roos
Adelaide has overrun a flat North Melbourne side winning by 36 points at Adelaide Oval.
Again squaring the ledger at 6-6, and confronting an equally hot-and-cold opponent, Adelaide still believes in miracles while the Kangaroos may not feel the fall-out from this loss until later given that only two of their remaining 10 home-and-away games are against sides above them on the ladder – Hawthorn and Geelong.
As much as few have anticipated North’s top-four rise, it was a genuine possibility. It emphasised the pressure on both sides, and for the Crows to turn up with their better form was heartening for their often disillusioned fans.
Inspired by Brent Reilly’s delayed 200th AFL appearance, and again fearing defeat, Adelaide produced a workmanlike performance based on hard tackling, for most part more intelligent deliveries, and certainly far fewer ball-handling errors.
North began brilliantly, but missed two set shots in the opening two minutes, allowing Adelaide to steady and seize its share of luck, none better than an inspiring goal by Eddie Betts from deep in the right forward pocket from an out-of-bounds position.
There was also the genuine gem from James Podsiadly of which his former Cats teammate Steve Johnson would have been proud, and the general production from quality teamwork.
However, the Crows were also able to goal from uncontested marks with opponents standing within metres, from foolish free kicks such as the one that allowed Betts to kick his third after the half-time siren and take the shine off a mini-revival by the Kangaroos, and from overall poor checking. It was all about self-imposed pressure, and as much as both sides could be condemned for their inconsistency this season, their eagerness to rush the play while fearing mistakes smacked of desperation.
Adelaide led by 40 points 12 minutes into the second term, yet it never really looked comfortable. When a dubious umpiring decision – and there were plenty affecting both sides – gave Lachie Hansen an easy goal there was almost an air of panic suddenly sweeping the stadium.
Adelaide led by 28 points at half-time, but with 33 to 19 inside-50 entries the equation on the scoreboard should have been far better. A goal to creative Roo Lindsay Thomas – his third – two minutes into the third quarter prompted screen messages to Crows fans to make some noise. Suddenly uncertainty started to creep into Adelaide’s game.
A key factor was that North had so many usually top-performers down on form, especially Drew Petrie, who had the first shot at goal in the match and did not get another possession until after half-time due to outstanding defensive work by Adelaide’s Daniel Talia.
The challenge was for both sides to lift, especially through their leaders, and obviously Adelaide had more who were able to complete the mission.
After a slow start, Brent Harvey lifted the Kangaroos enormously with his tenacity and brilliance and Levi Greenwood and Andrew Swallow were also resilient, but not enough teammates followed.
Perhaps the most underrated in this Adelaide line-up most weeks is half-back Brodie Smith – although Carlton coach Michael Malthouse was astute enough to have him tagged – and on Saturday night his impact was again great without receiving enough respect.
It was Smith’s goal that stemmed the North tide, and followed-up by Josh Jenkins, who for most part had been relatively ineffective. Sam Kerridge, who kicked six goals against the Kangaroos in round nine last year, was another who got under their guard again, and his unlikely three-goal third-term was basically the knock-out punch.
The duel between the biggest men – Adelaide’s Sam Jacobs and North’s Todd Goldstein – was absorbing at the centre bounces where their onballers thrived in an equally tough battle, but it was Jacobs’ play around the ground that proved most effective.
Overall, the will-to-win could not be questioned by either side, but the decision-making and a fall in skill level under pressure – particularly from North Melbourne – was not that of a genuine finals contender, as reflected on the premiership ladder. For Adelaide, the dream lives on; the Grim Reaper will wait – for now.