By ZAC MILBANK
Adelaide’s class and poise proved the difference in its six-point win against a brave West Adelaide at City Mazda Stadium on Saturday.
Entering the final change trailing by 12 points, the Crows’ ability to flick the switch and use the ball with greater efficiency was decisive in overcoming the Bloods.
The visitors had a staggering 78 more kicks than Gavin Colville’s charges, who were playing in honour of captain Tom Keough is his 100th Statewide Super League game.
This alone illustrated the inefficiency by foot by Heath Younie’s outfit until things changed suddenly when the game was on the line in the final quarter.
”We had to grind our way to find a win,” Adelaide midfielder Bryce Gibbs said on Channel 7.
”We went sideways and laterally a lot and didn’t penetrate deep into our 50m much.
”It took us until the last quarter to start going a bit more direct with the ball.”
West had an opportunity to lead by as much as 17 points at three quarter-time when star Bloods forward Jono Beech intercepted a defensive pass only to see his set shot miss.
Then in the space of five minutes, Gibbs was instrumental in locking the scores together by using his experience and poise to hit up Darcy Fogarty and Kieran Strachan for defining goal assists by foot.
Favourite son Beech put the hosts back in front when he converted a free kick for holding on 25m out directly in front.
But a towering overhead mark by Crows ruckman Sam Jacobs gave him the opportunity to play on and snap truly from close range to level the scores again 14 minutes into the fourth stanza.
Consecutive goals to Elliott Himmelberg and Shane McAdam stretched the margin out to 12 nearing time-on as the Crows looked set to cruise to a win.
The Bloods kept fighting though, with emerging tall forward Lyndon Hupfeld taking an overhead mark and trimming the deficit to just five points 23 minutes in.
Shortly after Adelaide forced a rushed behind to put the advantage back out to six points, Himmelberg had a set shot in the pocket to at least put the prospect of a draw out of the equation but the tall forward’s shot went out on the full.
The plucky Bloods had the ball deep inside their 50m attacking arc when the final siren sounded as the umpire was set to throw the ball up after a stoppage, leaving them without one more last-gasp chance to even things up.
Crows midfielders Pat Wilson, Gibbs, Myles Poholke and captain Matthew Wright were all integral pieces in earning the premiership points as Adelaide shot to the top of the table midway through Round 9.
Ben Davis was impressive, particularly in some critical passages of play during the final term, finishing with 22 touches and 12 marks.
Former Sturt forward Shane McAdam had his best game in the tri-colours, collecting 18 disposals to go with his 1.3 and nine marks.
West’s Kaine Stevens and Brett Turner found plenty of the ball in what was a very even team performance which would have pleased Colville, except for securing the win.
Premiership wingman Hugh Haysman was another encouraging point for West, as he looked lively in booting three goals from close range as he builds match fitness in the wake of a luckless long-term run with injury.
ADELAIDE 2.4 4.8 5.11 10.12 (72)
WEST 2.2 4.4 8.5 10.6 (66)
LEADING DISPOSALS – Adelaide: Wilson 38, Gibbs 29, Wright 25, Butts, Otten 23, Davis, Poholke 22, Jones 20, Knight 19, McAdam 18.
West: K. Stevens, B. Turner, Wasley-Black 22, Hill 21, Batley, Waite 19, P. Fairlie 18, Keough 17.
GOALS – Adelaide: Stengle 2, Fogarty, Gibbs, Himmelberg, Jacobs, Jones, McAdam, Poholke, Strachan.
West: H. Haysman 3, Beech, Hupfeld 2, Batley, Johnson, Pillion.
Woodville-West Torrens kept its momentum rolling as it stretched its winning streak to three with a comfortable 29-point win against Central District at X Convenience Oval.
Coming into the contest with confidence-boosting victories against top-five teams Norwood and South Adelaide, the Eagles managed to keep the Bulldogs at arm’s length throughout the afternoon before powering away in the fourth term.
Spurred on by an eye-catching display in attack by hard-working forward Jack Hayes, the visitors booted four goals to the Dogs’ two in the final half-an-hour to seal the premiership points.
With talented Bulldog Troy Menzel closing the deficit to 16 points at the final change, the Eagles asserted themselves on the contest with the opening goal of the final quarter through the agency of a strong mark to Nick Moore.
As he has done so often this season, Central’s Justin Hoskin hit the scoreboard when he pounced on a loose ball from 15m out to trim the margin back to 17 points.
But three consecutive majors iced the game for the visitors, the third fittingly booted by Jake Johansen on the run from 50m as he celebrated his 100th Statewide Super match in fine style.
Eagles veterans Chris Hall and James Boyd, who were elevated from rare stints in the Reserves back into the League team, repaid the faith of coach Sam Lonergan offensively after chalking up 49 disposals between them.
Hall hit the scoreboard to boot the first goal of the game and a vital major when he found space to mark a Jack Hayes pass in the pocket during time-on of the final term.
Jared Petrenko also provided his trademark run and dash on the wide expanses at Elizabeth while also producing a crucial smother and turnover which resulted in a late goal for the Eagles.
Central’s Schiller brothers were again at the top of the leading disposal-winners while Hoskin had 21 touches to go with his two majors.
Menzel also did his best to keep his side in the contest by booting a team-high three majors at critical junctures.
EAGLES 4.3 8.7 11.10 15.13 (103)
CENTRAL 4.1 6.4 9.6 11.8 (74)
LEADING DISPOSALS – Eagles: Hall 25, Boyd 24, Johansen, Petrenko 22, Foote, Poole 21, J. Hayes 18, Goldsworthy, N. Hayes 17.
Central: Hoskin 21, McKenzie 20, Habel, Jenner 19, Jydon Neagle 16, D. Pisani 15.
GOALS – Eagles: J. Hayes 3, Hall, Johansen, Moore 2, Comitogianni, Foote, Guilhaus, N. Hayes, Sharrad, Thompson.
Central: Fort, Menzel 3, Hoskin 2, Marsh, Presbury, J. Schiller.
Port Adelaide stars Ollie Wines and Charlie Dixon thrilled the Magpie faithful as they played major roles in orchestrating a 20-point win against Sturt at Alberton.
With both players making their Statewide Super League debuts on the comeback trail from serious injuries, the Magpies led at every change to ensure the dangerous Double Blues wouldn’t be allowed into the contest.
Wines, who has overcome a fractured fibula, was on track to nudge 50 disposals when he registered 23 at half-time before finishing with the impressive stat line of 32 disposals, 10 tackles and six clearances.
Former Gold Coast Sun Dixon booted a game-high five majors, including a 45m set shot on the verge of half-time which gave Port a defining 23-point lead entering the main break.
Dixon, who has been battling an annoying ankle injury which required surgery, also finished with 13 disposals and six marks to go with his seven shots on goal.
Port’s use of handball kept Sturt at bay, with the Magpies registering 80 more than the visitors, who did well to muster just four fewer inside 50 entries.
Willem Drew and the two Cams – Sutcliffe and Hewett – also worked hard to earn victory for Port while Trent McKenzie had 20 disposals in his return from a hamstring strain.
Sturt skipper Zane Kirkwood rose his game on his old home ground to tally a game-high 34 possessions, eight marks and five tackles while James Battersby had 25 touches.
But the Double Blues had as many as seven players failing to register 10 disposals which was always going to make things difficult against Port’s star-studded line-up.
PORT 2.5 7.7 10.10 12.13 (85)
STURT 1.1 4.2 6.3 10.5 (65)
LEADING DISPOSALS – Port: Wines 32, Drew 29, Hewett, Sutcliffe 24, Woodcock 23, McKenzie, Pudney 20, Ladhams 19.
Sturt: Kirkwood 34, Battersby 25, Crocker, F. Evans, Riley 16, Stephens, Sutcliffe 15.
GOALS – Port: Dixon 5, Cox, Drew 2, Marshall, Mead, Woodcock.
Sturt: M. Evans, Sutcliffe 2, Crocker, Greenslade, J. Hone, Patullo, Riley, Slimming.