Saturday, June 21 at Etihad Stadium
Essendon 15.11 (101) Defeated Adelaide 14.8 (92)
A withering 7 goal first quarter burst was enough to help Essendon overcome a dogged Adelaide outfit in front of just under 31,000 people at Etihad Stadium on Saturday night. The exceptional start – the Bombers had kicked 7 goals straight to the Crows 2.6 by quarter time – meant the Bombers would lead from start to finish, though they wouldn’t have it all their own way with the Crows pegging that early advantage back to just 9 points by the final siren.
Essendon’s quick start came right from the opening bounce, the initial clearance going forward to Heath Hocking who climbed for a strong mark and kicked truly from 50 metres for the perfect start in his defensive forward role on Brodie Smith. That was the pattern for most of the first quarter with the Bombers dominant, the Crows had barely gathered a possession before Essendon were 3 goals up. It was the midfield doing the damage early, Brent Stanton, Dyson Heppell, youngster Elliott Kavanagh, Brendon Goddard and Jake Melksham all prominent. Melksham’s return to form will be a welcome relief to coach Mark Thompson, the quality youngster has been down this season and with skipper Jobe Watson likely missing for the bulk of the remainder of the season it’s players like Melksham who will need to fill the breach if the Bombers hope to make the finals.
After the Bombers initial onslaught the Crows steadied late in the first quarter and booted a couple of goals to get back into the game, including a terrific snap from skipper Patrick Dangerfield. ‘Red time’ goals would be a theme for the Crows throughout the night, they kicked late goals in all 4 quarters of the game as the Bombers frenetic game style wore them down every quarter as the clock ticked into time on. It was a game style that would prove very effective for the Bombers however, they looked far more dangerous using their preferred quick play on method than they have in recent times when opponents have been able to slow down their ball movement and restrict their scoring.
Several times throughout the night it looked like Essendon had broken the game open and would run away comfortable winners, but to the Crows credit they responded every time with goals of their own to keep things interesting. At one point in the third quarter Essendon would extend their lead to a seemingly comfortable 36 points on the back of a strong David Zaharakis mark and goal in his 100th game, however when the ball went back to the middle former Bomber turned Crow Josh Jenkins broke free from the center clearance, ran to the edge of the centre square and boomed a 60 metre drop punt right through the middle. Despite only collecting 9 possessions for the night it was one of 4 goals for Jenkins, and would lead to 3 goals in the 3 minutes for the Crows keeping the result very much up in the air heading into the final term. Even in the last quarter, 3 times the Bombers kicked goals that looked the sealer only to have the Crows respond almost immediately with one of their own. One of them came from Travis Colyer for the Bombers, who turned on the after burners and sped into the forward pocket where he was confronted by Ben Rutten, but calmly turned and snapped truly over the Adelaide defender’s head.Still the Crows came though, and they had Essendon nervous right up until the final siren. All 3 of the Crows key forwards looked dangerous at various times, Jenkins was the pick of them but both Taylor Walker and James Podsiadly marked strongly at times and kicked 2 goals each. Walker continues to move impressively and work back into form following his return from a knee reconstruction, and aside from a few small mistakes it was another strong performance to please Adelaide coach Brenton Sanderson.
It was Jenkins’ late game opponent who would eventually kick the sealer, Michael Hurley perhaps giving coach Mark Thompson a reminder about his ability as a forward when he swooped onto a loose ball and banged through a 45 metre dagger off his non preferred left foot. The goal sent the pro-Bomber crowd into rapture, many of whom were clinging on to cards featuring the ‘Back Our Boys’ message that has become a catchcry over the past few weeks as support for the players issued with Show Cause Notices by ASADA.
That the Crows were a chance in the game at all was thanks mainly to the tireless work of veteran Scott Thompson who collected a game high 41 possessions in a brilliant display. Thompson thrived in the absence of regular opponent Watson and often found himself unattended at stoppages around the ground. With Bombers regular tagger Hocking busy quelling the influence of All-Australian candidate Brodie Smith off half back Thompson was free to win his own ball, and he did so brilliantly.
Small forward Eddie Betts was dangerous all night and finished with 3 goals and a couple of goal assists for the Crows, while former Carlton teammate Sam Jacobs had slightly the better of the ruck duel with Patty Ryder – though Ryder did kick 2 goals. Matthew Wright also chipped in with 26 possessions for the Crows. The Bombers much maligned forward line worked well for most of the night, young key forward Joe Daniher struggled with the size and strength of man mountain Rutten early, but got on his bike later in the game to contribute well. Jason Winderlich underlined his importance to the team with 2 goals and 20 possessions.
Bomber defender Michael Hibberd continued his stellar season off halfback and was probably the Bombers best player, shading Brendon Goddard despite 16 last quarter possessions – though unusually for Goddard not all of them found their intended target. Hibberd did look to be limping slightly for much of the night with a lower leg issue, the Bombers will be hoping he recovers in time for their Friday night blockbuster with Geelong next week. The Crows take on Port in the Showdown next week in a game that shapes as season defining – another loss could see their finals aspirations slipping away. Inspirational skipper Dangerfield was below his best with just 21 disposals, the Crows coaching staff will likewise be hoping his limp after the game isn’t serious enough to restrict him against the Power.