Crows 15.11 (101) d. Swans 8.14 (62) @ The SCG
by Frank Ienco reporting exclusively for AFANA at the Sydney Cricket Ground.
The Adelaide Crows have turned in a performance from the top shelf to thrash the defending premiers on their own turf, running out 39-point winners over the Sydney Swans in front of 36, 104 fans at the Sydney Cricket Ground on Sunday afternoon (AEST).
Sydney have now dropped three of their last four matches as they continue their poor record at home with only three wins from eight matches at either the SCG or Telstra Stadium this year. Not for the first time this year, the Swans lacked the passion and hunger to win. Their biggest loss this season has prompted coach Paul Roos to admit that their title defense is all but over unless things drastically change.
“The challenge for the footy club to go and win it (the flag) again after last year is sort of beyond us at this particular stage. If we can improve then we’ll get that opportunity back, but as we sit here know we’re clearly incapable of winning the Premiership this year,” Roos said post-match. “That’s the challenge: can we get the hunger back?”
“That’s why it’s hard for teams to go back to back because you are playing against sides that haven’t won premierships and your side has, only sort of nine months ago, so at the moment it just seems there’s a lack of desire to want to be able to do it again,” he said. “Clearly we’re still very capable of doing it, it’s just a matter of whether we want to do it or not, and at the moment we just don’t want to do it.”
The Swans, however, could feel hard done by after two goal umpiring decisions, proven incorrect by subsequent television replays, went against them during the second quarter that changed the momentum of the match. With AFL Operations Manager Adrian Andersen visiting the National Rugby League’s video referee area during this week’s State of Origin match at the Telstra Dome, today’s events will only add fuel to the debate that the same technology should be introduced to the AFL.
After a tight, low-scoring opening quarter, Crows defender Graham Johncock kicked a goal early in the second quarter that appeared to touch team-mate’s Ken McGregor’s hand before it went through. That questionable goal ignited a scoring frenzy for the visitors who went on to slam a further four goals to one to take a comfortable lead to half-time. There was no controversy about their class however, the Crows’ dominating contested possessions, marking contests and generally dictating the tempo of the game.
The competition-leaders have now won eight of their last nine against the Swans, including their last three, and cement their one game lead on top of the AFL ladder ahead of West Coast with eight rounds to go. They visit the Eagles at Subiaco in a fortnight in what could again decide which of these two sides will claim the minor premiership.
With the best defensive side (Adelaide) up against the third best in the competition, many fans expected a tight, low-scoring affair, and for the first quarter at least, neither side was going to tarnish their reputation. The opening term was one of the best quarters of footy this season, not because of free end-to-end scoring, but rather tough, unyielding contests with neither side giving much away.
The Swans dominated the opening exchanges and indeed opened the scoring after six minutes through Ryan O’Keefe. Minutes later the Crows sent an ominous warning of their ability to counter-attack when they took the ball from the centre of the ground from a Jarred McVeigh error to down to full-forward Trent Hentschel who marked and goaled to level the scores.
In a tense first term, the Swans appeared to look more threatening going forward and regained the lead immediately after Hentschel’s goal when star forward Michael O’Loughlin out marked Nathan Bassett to goal from point blank range. Goals would appear to come at a premium for much of the afternoon as the Crows missed chances to snatch the lead, Sydney leading at the first change 2.2 (14) to 1.4 (10).
That thought lasted for less than two minutes after the break as another Swans error led to veteran forward Mark Ricciuto to goal from the edge from the edge of the 50 meter arc to give the Crows the lead for the first time in the match. After a few tense moments as Adelaide again threatened the Sydney goal, Johncock’s first major would break the Swans’ spirit and launch the Crows into a scoring flurry.
From the very next centre bounce, midfielder Rhett Biglands ripped the ball away and launched another long range rocket. Again from the very next restart, the Crows goaled again as a wonderful passage of play finished by Simon Goodwin left the Sydney players stunned.
As if to rub salt into the wounds of a bewildered home crowd, Johncock was the beneficiary of another questionable goal umpiring decision. As Ivan Maric sent a long ball into Adelaide’s attacking 50 entering time-on, the waiting pack pushed the ball back to Sydney’s goals, but not before Johncock’s boot made the faintest contact with the Sherrin. Television replays were less conclusive this time around, but they appeared to show the ball had already crossed the line before Johncock had kicked it.
With the match well and truly in their favor, the Crows dominated possession and the attack, with Sydney helplessly looking for a way back into the game. Nick Davis got one back for Sydney but his effort was cancelled out by Hentschel’s second, Adelaide taking a commanding 7.7 (49) to 3.5 (23) at the main break.
Much has been written on these pages about the Swans’ ability to come back from dire situations like these last season, but like so many things for Sydney this year, a comeback was never on the agenda. Ricciuto sealed the match eight minutes into the third quarter and the Crows were never headed again as they dominated possession and the speed of the match. Crucial misses by O’Loughlin in time-on were indicative of Sydney’s miserable day as the much talked about ‘Bloods’ were nowhere to be seen.
A ten goal final term breathed a second wind into an otherwise predictable yet physical second half. Goals to Ken McGregor and Scott Thompson early in the quarter threatened to blow the score line out even further, but they were pegged back by goals to McVeigh and Amon Buchanan. A further four goals to two from the Crows added an exclamation point on the win, the final margin 39 points. For the second match straight Swans spearhead Barry Hall has failed to kick a goal (he did however kick four behinds).
Sydney simply made poor skill errors, some that led to goals, and were unable to keep up with their opposition. Their one-in, all-in brand of football is brilliant when it works, as it did last year, but when there aren’t enough contributors they can look lethargic as they did today. Roos suggested after the match his side needs at least 12-15 players to contribute to the team plan to win matches, today they fell well short of that mark.
The Crows, instead, how no shortages of players willing to step and take control of the match, Goodwin (27 disposals) and Johncock (19, 2 goals) today’s main attractions. Such is their depth, star midfielder Andrew McLeod (22 possessions) only came alive in the last quarter when the match was already over. Much is made of the Crows lacking a genuine forward target to kick big bags of goals, but so long as the likes of Hentschel (3 goals) and the evergreen Ricciuto (2) keep chipping in, they will rarely lack the firepower to kick a winning score.
Adelaide controlled the tempo and simply ran the Swans off the park with their speed and silky ball skills. They also took the Swans down at their own game, dominating the clearances and winning the hard-ball gets. They were prepared, particularly when the match was in the favor to sit back and hit the Swans on the counter attack, their speed across the ground, and the Swans lack of, often providing devastating consequences.
“We rate ourselves pretty highly from a contested ball point of view. We think Sydney are the benchmark and we reckon they still are, because they’ve been able to do it consistently, but our contested ball today was very good, very good, so our challenge now is to make sure we can try to cement that as a cornerstone, if you like, of our game,” Adelaide coach Neil Craig said in the post match press conference.
Sydney has been written off before and it would take someone brave to do it again, even on the back of today’s performance. Roos is also notorious for playing his side down, given how many times he wrote off the Swans as a Premiership threat during last season. They can re-establish their season in the best possible way by beating West Coast at Subiaco next Saturday afternoon, the first meeting between the two sides since last year’s Grand Final. The Crows face Hawthorn at AAMI Stadium next Saturday afternoon, before facing the same challenge as the Swans a week later.
Final Score- Adelaide 15.11 (101) d. Sydney 8.14 (62)
Goals- Sydney: McVeigh 2, O’Keefe, O’Loughlin, Davis, Buchanan, Williams, Goodes. Adelaide: Hentschel 3, Ricciuto 2, Johncock 2, Burton 2, McGregor2, Biglands, Goodwin, Thompson, Edwards.
Best- Sydney: Goodes, Buchanan, Fosdike, O’Loughlin. Adelaide: Goodwin, Ricciuto, Johncock, Hentschel, Doughty, McLeod.
Umpires- McBurney, Jeffery, McInerney
Attendance- 36,104 @ the Sydney Cricket Ground
Article last changed on Thursday, July 13, 2006 - 7:03 AM EDT