HAWTHORN 2.6 5.10 11.14 13.19 (97)
ADELAIDE 4.1 7.3 10.4 14.8 (92)
GOALS: Hawthorn: Franklin 3, Rioli 2, Gunston 2, Breust 2, Young, Shiels, Suckling, Burgoyne. Adelaide: Tippett 4, Walker 4, Smith, Johncock, Porplyzia, van Berlo, Henderson, Sloane.
BEST: Hawthorn: Rioli, Franklin, Mitchell, Sewell, Lewis, Breust. Adelaide: Tippett, Dangerfield, Thompson, Walker, Jacobs, Sloane.
UMPIRES: C Donlon, M Nicholls, S McInerney.
CROWD: 69,146 at MCG.
DEJA vu can never have felt as chilling for any Hawthorn supporter than during the final quarter last night. It was happening again. A decent three-quarter-time lead in a preliminary final being squandered.
Matthew Suckling and Richard Douglas battle for the ball. Photo: Pat Scala
The lead eventually surrendered with just a few minutes left on the clock. Even a clanger from key defender Ryan Schoenmakers. Exchange Adelaide's jumpers for black-and-white stripes and it could have been 2011.
This time, rather than heartbreak, there was salvation, delivered in the shape of two late goals and some magic from those predictable sources Cyril Rioli and Lance Franklin. The Hawks had clung on by five points in an unexpected epic, averting what would have been the most infamous finals defeat by a hot favourite for many, many years.
Perhaps that will end up being essentially the difference between the Hawthorn of 12 months ago and the Hawthorn that will take on Sydney on Saturday for a tilt at an 11th premiership. A little more steadiness in the crisis, a little more resolve to get the job done and a little more fear - courtesy of what happened last September - of the consequences of not doing so.
But this story can't just be about Hawthorn, because it was Adelaide's resolve to show its credentials as a team - after all, it had finished equal with Hawthorn on points at the top of the ladder - that made this the thriller it was.
At least three times the Hawks looked ready to put an appropriate distance between themselves and the rank outsiders. On every occasion - even right at the death after those goals to Rioli and Franklin, Taylor Walker, with his fourth goal, pulled it back to under a kick and still with one last centre bounce to win the day - the Crows refused to go politely into the night. He was terrific when it counted. This time his key forward partner, Kurt Tippett, who also kicked four goals, hauled down 11 marks and did his share of ruckwork, was even better.
The Crows reliables fired again in midfield. Sam Jacobs in the ruck and, at ground level, Scott Thompson and Patrick Dangerfield, the latter saving his best for when it counted most, winning 11 disposals and three crucial clearances in the last term.
Like the rest of his team, he just kept coming even though the Crows may have lost heart when the Hawks enjoyed their biggest surge of the evening, four goals in the first nine minutes after half-time putting them 20 points in front and prompting the belief that a good early effort was about to be trumped by superior class and execution.
But the Crows had a point to prove to an army of season-long sceptics, who'd refused to believe an amazing turnaround from a 2011 finish of 14th to a spot playing off for a grand final berth could be down to anything more than an easy draw. They certainly won't be taken lightly after this effort.
Adelaide coach Brenton Sanderson had spoken during the week about the need for his side to get off to a decent start. Unlike the first two finals, last night he could have had no argument with what he got in response.
After some early Hawthorn misses let Adelaide off the hook, the Crows struck. Tippett had missed one opportunity, but made no mistake with the second after a strong mark in front of Schoenmakers, a pattern that would be repeated more than a little in the first half.
A minute later, it was two on the board, Adelaide visibly growing in confidence and intent, demonstrated by the way Jason Porplyzia attacked a ground ball, winning it and beginning a link-up that ended in a lovely snap from Ricky Henderson.
The feeling was still that it was just a matter of time before Hawthorn stirred, far more so after Clinton Young calmly slotted his side's first from 55 metres out on the run, then Liam Shiels put the Hawks in front again after a 50-metre penalty, the hot favourite by now having double the Crows for inside 50 entries.
But not for the last time, Adelaide showed admirable pluck when a vast majority of 70,000 onlookers relaxed and waited for the supposedly inevitable cave-in. In a game that was far more open and flowing than the tight scraps that had thus far constituted much of this year's finals campaign, the Crows more than held their own in a contest of legs and run, apparent in Rory Sloane's goal on the break from outside 50, then another quick foray forward, Henderson's speculative bomb to the square ending with Tippett again.
Hawthorn by now had almost trebled Adelaide for forward entries and had managed to keep Crow dangerman Dangerfield relatively quiet, but its own inaccuracy and occasional poor decision making threatened to be its downfall, by the time Cyril Rioli missed another opportunity the scoreboard read 2.6 to the Crows' 4.1.
When Taylor Walker put his side two goals to the good five minutes into the second term, the rumblings of the significant horde of visiting fans grew exponentially, the gulps in the mouths of the brown and goal nearly just as audible.
Hawthorn has for most of this season shown a talent for turning on as emphatic a burst of power as anyone. Its first version last night began with Lance Franklin, until then hardly a factor. He cut into slide one through along the ground on his left foot after Roughead had fumbled another chest mark. The Hawks were in front again when Luke Breust bobbed up in the right place at the right time to get on the end of Brad Sewell's hurried kick, and looking all systems go by the time Shaun Burgoyne finished a nice bit of overlap to calmly steer through another.
Again Adelaide rallied, Walker booting the final two of the half, reprising his post-siren effort of last week. Their next rally was even more impressive after those four unanswered majors from the Hawks after half-time. The Crows kicked the first of the final term, then, after 12 minutes without a goal, another in dramatic circumstances.
Last year, Schoenmakers dropped a chest mark that resulted in Luke Ball's match-winning goal for Collingwood. Last night would have weighed more heavily had the Hawks not scraped home, as David Hale's hard-won free kick was reversed after Schoenmakers crashed into Porplyzia, the latter converting. Barely two minutes later, substitute Graham Johncock had, incredibly, put the Crows in front.
The next response was classy. Rioli, shifted forward, slipped in front of a pack to mark and goal from the next centre bounce. Franklin made it an all-important 10 points with three-and-a-half minutes to play after Ben Stratton had laid a critical tackle on Dangerfield, and Rioli got involved again, slipping out the handball to his superstar mate.
The Hawks were going to hang on this time. But if that was an improvement on what happened this day last September, next Saturday will need to be an improvement on what happened yesterday if that flag that has seemed likely for a while now is to be realised.
Quarter by quarter
QUARTER 1 Hawthorn had three shots at goal before the Crows had taken the ball inside 50. Unfortunately for the Hawks they missed each one and Adelaide put on two goals in two minutes through Tippett and Henderson. Hawthorn was uncharacteristically sloppy, making bad choices and executing poorly. Sloane was superb in the midfield for the Crows and Tippett was worrying Schoenmakers, with Walker pushing hard, dragging Gibson away and leaving Schoenmakers isolated.
Adelaide by seven points
QUARTER 2 Walker booted a goal to open the quarter for the Crows and stretch the lead to two goals. Hawthorn rallied when Franklin squeezed a ball through from a half chance and Breust goaled from 25metres out directly in front (after missing one from the same range minutes earlier) and there was a sense the Hawks were really starting to flex their muscles when Burgoyne got on the end of a chain of handballs to convert. Critically, Adelaide held them up and goaled against the flow through Walker.
Adelaide by five points
QUARTER 3 The Hawks broke the game open with four straight goals, including three in two minutes. Sewell was outstanding for the Hawks, firing them up in the middle and creating the opportunities for his forwards to score. Van Berlo goaled off one step after an inventive blind handball from Walker, but each time Adelaide pressed, Hawthorn answered, painfully so when a poor kick across goal to Rutten left Rioli with an easy scoring shot. A goal on the siren again gave Adelaide some hope.
Hawthorn by 16 points
QUARTER 4 Hawthorn missed early chances and thenTippett kicked his fourth. The potential game-changer came when Schoenmakers cannoned into Porplyzia’s back to have a free reversed and the Crows converted the kick. Johncock goaled to put the Crows in front. Burgoyne cleared the ball at the centre bounce, delivered to Rioli, who marked and gave Hawthorn back the lead. Stratton tackled Dangerfield when the Crow was a chance to goal and the ball rebounded for Franklin to kick the sealer.
Hawthorn wins by five points