By ZAC MILBANK
North Adelaide didn’t bring its best but it escaped Hisense Stadium with a nail-biting one-point victory against West Adelaide on Friday night.
Despite having several stars perform below par, the Roosters banked the win after trailing by eight points at the final change to break the spirited Bloods’ heart.
The hosts appeared set to celebrate an upset triumph at several junctures, the first being when Hugh Haysman kicked his second goal in succession with less than 30 seconds on the clock before the three-quarter time siren.
It took only 68 seconds into the final term for West to stretch the margin to 14 points when Isaac Johnson was paid a free kick more than 50m off the ball, paving the way for him to convert a 15m set shot.
But after two behinds in succession, North forward Keenan Ramsey produced a clever snap pass for Will Combe to mark in space.
The emerging left-footer then slotted his third major of the night with a 45m set shot, trimming the deficit to one straight kick.
Just as it had all night, West continued to surge forward and it appeared to pay dividends when Round 8 inclusion Connor Fairlie made the most of his League opportunity to kick a contender for Channel 7 Goal of the Week.
With the ball tucked up into the pocket, the former Panther pounced, and nailed an eye-catching checkside goal – featured in the clip below – on the run to put the Bloods back in front by two goals.
West’s Glenelg recruit Josh Koster marked a deep entry on the behind line but he was only able to manage a poster from his 15m snap.
North then produced a stunning piece of coast-to-coast play after the behind, with Robbie Young finding Kym Lebois on his own in the goal square, pegging the margin back to five points 19 minutes into the final term.
The cool head of first-year player Will Combe again prevailed as he put his side in front by a point with his fourth goal of the night, having marked a short pass from fellow AAMI Rookie Harrison Magor 30m in front.
Lewis Hender then had a chance to seal the win for the visitors but his quick snap floated wide, pushing North in front by two points nearly 24 minutes in.
West’s last significant forward foray saw Kenny Karpany take a floating chest mark, pass to Connor Fairlie, who then found Haysman 40m from goal directly in front.
Unfortunately for the red and black faithful, Haysman’s shot narrowly missed, giving North one last opportunity to sweep the ball away to the outer wing for the final siren to sound.
Will Combe, the younger brother of Campbell Combe, was a significant difference-maker on the night booting four of his team’s 11 goals, including the final two when the game was on the line.
The Crystal Brook product also collected 19 disposals, four marks and three tackles to push his name forward for consideration as Powerade Breakthrough Player of the Week.
Captain Alex Spina made a welcome return to the side to finish with 27 disposals and 10 marks in a typically composed display while Harrison Wigg set up plenty of play with his 33 disposals and nine marks.
Joint vice-captains Andrew Moore and Tom Schwarz worked hard for 50 possessions between them while Cameron Craig’s red-hot form in defence keeps rolling on after his best afield display in Round 7.
As much as West coach Gavin Colville will be frustrated at not winning the match, there are plenty of positives for the Bloods, who had more disposals, more marks and one more inside 50 than one of the competition’s pacesetters.
Reinvigorated pair Brett Turner and Aaron Anderson have stepped up with taking on more responsibility and are displaying great consistency in performance.
Turner has found his niche as a big-bodied midfielder, collecting 26 disposals, five marks and seven clearances to go with his goal while Anderson had 24 possessions.
Hard-working Kaine Stevens collected 22 in the midfield while Connor Fairlie showed he has something to offer at League level with 20 disposals, nine marks and his cracking fourth-quarter goal.
But the real find unearthed by the Bloods this season has been Unley Jets recruit Mitch Duval.
The 23-year-old defender has shown great poise in restricting several of the competition’s best forwards while also intercept marking and disposing cleanly under pressure.
Duval finished with 21 disposals against the Roosters while Ouyen United recruit Tom Morrish was another to impress with 15 disposals and two goals in just his second League game.
Sign up to see all the news from around the SANFL each week – directly in your inbox!