Pies make a statement
On the run: Harry O'Brien defies the attention of Crows players during last night's clash at AAMI Stadium. Photo: Getty Images
COLLINGWOOD 3.2 5.6 5.10 10.15 (75) ADELAIDE 3.1 4.5 6.10 6.13 (49)
GOALS Collingwood: Beams 2, Sidebottom 2, Goldsack 2, Didak, Shaw, Pendlebury, Wellingham. Adelaide: Tippett 2, Smith, Petrenko, Wright, Henderson.
BEST Collingwood: Beams, Pendlebury, Sidebottom, Thomas, Maxwell, Blair. Adelaide: Jaensch, Reilly, Tippett, Smith, Mackay, Wright.
INJURIES Collingwood: Keeffe (right knee), Blair (cut head).
UMPIRES M Stevic, S Meredith, J Bannister.
CROWD 44,238 at AAMI Stadium.
COLLINGWOOD produced one of its courageous performances of old at AAMI Stadium last night with a desperately hard-fought - but costly - 26-point win over Adelaide.
When the right knee of key tall defender Lachlan Keeffe, in just his 14th game, buckled in a simple contest, causing the player to be carried off early in the last quarter, it appeared the Magpies had surrendered their one-point lead and allow the besieged Crows the chance to regain their composure.
But the Pies just got tougher, and with wobbling and off-the-ground goals midway through the quarter from Dayne Beams and Sharrod Wellingham, all but sealed a memorable win.
And it just got better in the dying stages, with Alan Didak kicking a goal from 48 metres to silence a majority of the 44,238 fans.
The Crows, who kicked just 0.3 to 5.5 in the final term, were floored, and their strong run of form came to a halt.
The Magpies reminded that they might not quite be at their best, but they are still hard to beat when sent into a contest as the underdog.
Collingwood's win extended Adelaide's longest losing run against any club - it has not beaten the Magpies since the opening round of 2009, and not at AAMI Stadium since 2006.
The Pies have now won six straight, and with games against the bottom clubs - Gold Coast and Melbourne - to come, and a bye, they are humming along nicely.
Both sides seemed to blow their chances in a pressure-packed final eight minutes of the third term. Ricky Henderson took one step and kicked a goal from 60 metres to put the Crows eight points up. But Graham Johncock then made an interchange error and gave Darren Jolly an easy set shot - which he missed.
The Crows went into the last quarter with a six-point lead in a low-scoring contest, and it was always going to be a memorable finish to a hard-fought match in which the lead changed 16 times.
Showers during the second quarter made conditions greasy, and there was no doubt Collingwood handled them better as the Crows fumbled in the tight packs, denying them an advantage in clearances, something they have had lately.
What kept Adelaide in the contest for the most part was its relentless attack on the ball to place Collingwood under enormous pressure. But making the win special was that the Pies were able to not only withstand the heat but give the Crows a serve.
In many ways, this was Adelaide's sternest test this season; Collingwood stifled the Crows' in-form midfielders, not so much of possessions, but clean, effective disposals.
It was very much a game where so many players were asked to make a statement, and for most part they each did in their special way. But the big guns also fired some big shots, especially Scott Pendlebury, Beams, Steele Sidebottom and Dale Thomas for Collingwood.
Apart from the points, among the real plusses for the Pies was the fact Thomas worked his way into the form for which is renowned. His performance against one of the competition's in-form players, Patrick Dangerfield, was significant.
Adelaide had its share of top performers, including Kurt Tippett, whose marking strength, competitiveness and kicking for goal was the best for some time.
Ben Rutten and Travis Cloke presented an absorbing contest, and Sharrod Wellingham did a terrific job on containing the Crows' captain Nathan van Berlo.
The man-on-man contests added to an enthralling contest but, ultimately, the edge in Collingwood's favour was its ability to make Adelaide's midfield far more accountable than it had been in recent weeks.
Hurting Adelaide most was the fact it simply did not convert enough from its inside-50 entries, and Collingwood's defence deserves enormous credit for the pressure it applied.
It's been well documented that the Crows have a good draw. It's interesting to note that of their remaining 13 home-and-away matches, starting with Fremantle at Patersons Stadium on Saturday night, only four - Dockers (twice), West Coast and Essendon - are against sides in the eight going into this round. As for Collingwood, it faces six of them - the Eagles (twice), Fremantle, Carlton, Sydney and Essendon. The Pies also play their next seven games at the MCG.
The Crows and Magpies last night played for the Westpac Cup for the third time. The connection is the bank sponsoring both clubs, but it's hardly one of the deep and meaningful pieces of silverware in the trophy cabinet. But it's great that both clubs use the occasion to acknowledge volunteer organisations, and this year it is paying tribute to Surf Life Saving SA.