CARLTON 2.2 4.2 8.5 12.9 (81) ADELAIDE 1.4 2.7 7.12 10.16 (76)
Goals: Carlton: T Menzel 3 S Docherty 2 A Everitt C Yarran D Ellard D Thomas J Waite K Simpson L Casboult. Adelaide: E Betts 4 C Cameron D Mackay M Jaensch S Kerridge S Thompson T Walker.
BEST Carlton: Yarran, Menzel, Simpson, Gibbs, Thomas, Everitt, Docherty. Adelaide: Jacobs, Betts, Thompson, Jacobs, Dangerfield, Douglas, Martin.
Umpires: Simon Meredith, Sam Hay, Matthew Leppard.
Official Crowd: 32,419 at MCG.
Thirty seconds to go. Carlton up by five points. Paddy Dangerfield has it. And Carlton is in Danger. He is running through half-forward. He takes an extra few steps, considers his choices and knows he must go long. He punts it long to the pack 20 metres out. It spills.
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Carlton hold on to beat Adelaide by five points in a nail-biting finish at the MCG.
At this point the entire game is distilled to a moment. If Adelaide goals the names of the heroes and the villains change.
The fear in Carlton throats was that this was another Eddie Betts moment. The former hero turned irritatingly still likeable villain had kicked four goals and was primed for this to be the moment to make it five and steal Carlton’s win.
The ball lands. Eddie is not there. Rory Sloane is. The blond mid-fielder has it at his feet and in the urgent scramble to get it to his hands and then to his feet he half stumbles. Andrejs Everitt halts him and wins the free kick. The game is over. Only the ticking of a final few seconds remain. Carlton wins.
For a game of such awful beginnings it had such a wonderful tense denouement.
Betts threatened to be the hero of the day. He kicked four and if you scripted sport you would script Betts being the man to put the knife into Carlton.
Of course, if you scripted football you would not write something so miserable as the first half of the game that the crowd of 32,419 was forced to endure in the unwelcoming twilight fixture.
Betts playing Carlton for the first time reminded the Blues, and himself after just 12 goals this season, how dangerous he can be when he is on. Even the normally unforgiving Carlton fans didn’t really have their hearts in booing him. Until he became the man to boot four goals and then it was not so much a boo as a deep heavy sigh.
It was a match of reminders. Dale Thomas had his best game yet for Carlton and when it mattered most, carrying the burden of a ugly missed shots this year, he became the man to give the Blues their breathing space in the last quarter. He is still not moving at his best, but when it mattered he kicked the set shot.
It was a relief to him and Carlton and not just for this match but the settling effect on his season.
The reminder Paddy Dangerfield will not enjoy is of his impatient decision to play on in front of goal late in the game. It was the 15-minute mark and Dangerfield marked 20 metres out directly in front of goal and curiously charged off to snap the kick over his shoulder rather than take a set shot. The kick skimmed away from goal for a behind. There was still time but it was another moment of squander.
At half-time something had to give. The game could not go on for another half as it had in the first. Mercifully it did. Mercifully for Carlton it was Adelaide that broke. Adelaide, so brutal last week, so messy this week.
Beer and chip prices are the least of the AFL’s concerns about reasons not to go to the football when there are halves of football such as Carlton and Adelaide’s.
The game was as unappealing and unpopular as the timeslot in which it was played. The pie and chip prices were just the final insult.
Pleasingly Chris Yarran and Troy Menzel were able to punctuate the ugly, hesitant, inaccurate football. Their moments in the game were the light in the gloom.
Only six goals were kicked between the sides for the first half in dry conditions when more balls appeared to miss their mark than hit. The kick back and across was as favoured as the kick forward.
The first term was played in large parts in Adelaide’s half of the ground, Carlton often hitting a trampoline across the centre and conceding the ball back into defence, yet the Blues managed to boot two goals to the Crows’ one.
Carlton played with greater authority in the second term. After being hesitant and uncertain moving the ball in the first term the Blues assumed greater belief. That said neither side had great certainty about their ball movement.
Andrejs Everitt booted the first goal of the second half after Kade Simpson won a critical contest on the wing to earn the ball forward. When Sam Docherty spliced the goals with a kick from the pocket and Yarran thudded the post moments later the Blues had a 20-point lead. It was not a convincing 20 points but it was a lead.
Adelaide through Sam Jacobs in the ruck, Scott Thompson and Paddy Dangerfield around the ball found their way back into the contest but it was Carlton who was better able to settle and win the contests that mattered across the midfield in the tense final term.