HAWTHORN 4.3 8.4 13.9 15.14 (104) ADELAIDE 3.0 7.4 11.4 14.8 (92)
Goals: Hawthorn: J Gunston 4 L Breust 3 B McEvoy 2 J Ceglar 2 J Simpkin 2 S Burgoyne T Duryea. Adelaide: J Jenkins 5 J Podsiadly 2 T Lynch 2 T Walker 2 B Smith E Betts M Wright.
BEST Hawthorn: Mitchell, Birchall, Lewis, Suckling, Shiels, Gunston. Adelaide: Crouch, Talia, R. Sloane, Dangerfield, Podsiadly, Jenkins.
Injuries: Adelaide: J Jenkins (ankle), S Thompson (hamstring).
Umpires: Ray Chamberlain, Mathew Nicholls, Shane McInerney.
Official Crowd: 50,321 at Adelaide Oval.
Love ’em or hate ’em, you’ve got to admire the mighty Hawks. With the utmost respect, they fielded possibly their weakest side to play in Adelaide in years and beat the near injury-free Crows that were pumped up to enter the top eight for the first time this season.
It was not without drama, with Luke Breust under pressure and running into his record 30th-straight goal only to hear umpire Ray Chamberlain call three-quarter time 14 seconds too early.
The ball was then thrown up, and gone was the Hawks’ chance to extend their 17-point lead. It is understood Chamberlain misheard a noise in his earpiece – needed because of the deafening sound from the 50,321 fans.
Minutes into the last term, Breust missed a set shot from 50 metres, meaning he equalled the astonishing 29-goals straight record set by Tony Lockett in 1995.
Of course, Hawthorn has won some epic contests and played much better while looking through its window of opportunity over the past seven years, but given the pressure to remain in the top four while being racked by injuries and a suspension, this champion side was at its finest in terms of drawing upon sheer grit.
Not pretty, but gutsy in symbolic fashion. And remember, this was at Adelaide Oval, the noisiest arena in Australia.
This was Hawthorn’s second visit here, and it made five changes to the side that lost to Port Adelaide by 14 points in round 10, with the key premiership players coming into the side being Jarryd Roughead, Sam Mitchell and Matt Spangher, while David Hale, Bradley Hill and Brad Sewell were out. Other key performers missing included experienced defenders Josh Gibson and Brian Lake, while Cyril Rioli was also absent, so this was hardly Hawthorn’s best line-up.
Notwithstanding this, Hawthorn repeatedly stood up to Adelaide’s pressure and drew upon the never-say-die attitude of so many, particularly one of the hardiest of all, Sam Mitchell.
In a game of lead changes, the crunches came midway through the third quarter when Adelaide’s Josh Jenkins kicked a career-high fifth goal.
Within 90 seconds, Jack Gunston, who kicked Hawthorn’s opening three goals and then had barely another touch, goaled again from another Adelaide turnover, and from a half-volley pick-up on the ground handballed to Breust to give the Hawks a seven-point lead.
Adelaide made its intention clear early – quick and long kicks from the back line, over Hawthorn’s defenders and searching for big marks in the forward line.
When James Podsiadly took a powerful mark in a pack and kicked the first goal, the Crows looked good – a clear sign the absence of Brian Lake would be significant.
But Hawthorn took control of the midfield through Matthew Suckling, and especially Grant Birchell, who was playing his best game in weeks, and the trend changed. The Crows were stifled in defence and cracks appeared.
Adelaide desperately needed a lift from its key players, including Eddie Betts, who got his first touch in his 200th game – a kick off the ground for a goal – two minutes into the second term.
Most of all, Adelaide needed a game change; its versatility was to be tested by a disciplined Hawthorn.
It came with a smart move of having Ricky Henderson as the extra man in defence, and the Gunston supply line was cut, while Roughead struggled to get a touch.
The Crows assumed control of the midfield, especially through the brilliance and courage of Brad Crouch, who repeatedly won clearances and fed Podsiadly, Jenkins and Taylor Walker who again presented themselves as huge threats.
The Hawks looked nervous as defenders slipped over on the dewy surface far too often, but typically, they persisted.
The play opened up in the second half, and the Hawks made Adelaide pay for its rising turnovers. It was largely about desperate teams fearing defeat; not always pretty, but hardly lacking intestinal fortitude. It was a battle for a top-four spot versus a top-eight chance, and executed accordingly.
Ultimately, Hawthorn wore the Crows down. The home team had every chance, but was shown up to be what it is – a good side out of the eight that battles well.