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G Michael reporting for AFANA from Adelaide, South Australia

Adelaide and Essendon were both coming off losses in the previous round making this match a crucial clash at AAMI Stadium on a cold and wet Sunday night. Desperate to alleviate the pain of two consecutive losses, the Bombers needed a stirring win to remain a game clear in the battle for eighth spot, while a Crows’ victory would see them stay in the fight for top spot.

As the Bombers ran out on to the ground to see their banner stood torn to shreds from the blustery winds, they faced the realization that the game was going to be a hard fought encounter in cold and wintery conditions. Bomber Sam Lonergan took advantage of a poorly timed defensive clearance from Crow Sam Shaw and kicked the first goal for the game as both teams spent the opening minutes tussling for ascendency. A free kick to first gamer Aidan Riley saw the lead cut back to two points as the Crows goaled. However Essendon quickly responded with goals to both Jason Winderlich and Leroy Jetta, to take a 14 point lead with nine minutes to play in the opening term. Controlling the tempo of the game, Essendon added to their lead with another goal from Scott Gumbleton before Adelaide wrestled the margin back to just nine points with two quick goals from Sam Jacobs and Jason Porplyzia. Essendon’s tireless captain Jobe Watson added another goal to the Bombers’ score line only to be outdone by Adelaide’s own captain, Nathan van Berlo, who scored a miraculous goal from the boundary line leaving Essendon in front by eight points at the first break.

If the Crows thought their captain’s goal would give them ascendency in the second quarter, they were wrong. The Bombers increased the lead to 14 points from a Winderlich goal within the first 30 seconds of play. However just as Essendon were looking to stretch the lead, a defensive error saw Tom Bellchambers hand Patrick Dangerfield an easy shot on goal only 20 meters out to cut the lead back to eight points. A video review confirmed Winderlich’s third goal, as the ball fortuitously clipped his leg as it bounced across the goal square. Goals to Michael Hurley and Travis Colyer extended the Bombers’ lead to a game high 28 points. With only 21 seconds left to play in the second quarter, Adelaide’s danger man Dangerfield marked and goaled to cut the deficit back to 22 points at half time.

Trailing at the start of the third quarter, the Adelaide Crows knew they had to come out firing after the main break, and so they did with a quick goal to Taylor Walker within the first minute of play. Despite the Bombers scoring, with Winderlich notching up his fourth for the game, the Crows played a more direct and fluent style of football. Within very little time they had taken the lead by four points after goals to Dangerfield, Walker, Josh Jenkins and a brilliant on the run snap by Rory Sloane. With seven minutes left to go in the third quarter, the pace of the game lifted and Alwyn Davey, crumbing the ball off the pack, scored a much-needed goal for Essendon to take the lead back by two points. As Essendon tried to wrestle the lead back off Adelaide, Winderlich hobbled off the ground with what appeared to be a hamstring injury. The pain of losing their main goal scorer only heightened the drama for the Bombers as Graham Johncock kicked a goal from off the ground, extending Adelaide’s lead to four points. Another goal to Jenkins saw the margin increase to two goals, and only a late goal to Alex Browne helped Essendon decrease the deficit to one goal at the final break.

As the forty thousand strong crowd cheered on for their home team to run away with the game in the final term, the Crows and Bombers found themselves locked in a tight tussle of desperate man on man football. Watson opened the scoring as Essendon took the lead by two points, only to see it lost again as Walker kicked his third goal for the game to give Adelaide back the lead. As the quarter rolled on into the night, both teams struggled to gain the ascendency with hard contested football making it difficult for either team to score. With ten minutes left to play in the game, Alex Browne brilliantly snapped the ball across his body for his second goal for the night, changing the lead once again in favour of the Bombers. Essendon held the two point lead for three minutes more until Adelaide, through good work from Johncock, wrestled it back with six and half minutes left to go. Both teams continued to fight hard for the ball and, as the home fans sat on the edge of their seats, big Crow forward Walker settled their nerves with a mark and goal, giving Adelaide a ten point lead with only three minutes left to play. Although it appeared that Adelaide would walk away with the win, the Bombers, as they had done all night, fought back hard and conjured a goal from Courtenay Dempsey who kicked magnificently from outside 50 metres, bringing the deficit back to just only four points with two minutes left to play. With both teams fighting hard to control the ball, a missed opportunity in front of goal from the Bomber captain and a failed last ditch effort by Tayte Pears to hold on to a mark to give Essendon a clear shot on goal from only ten meters out meant Adelaide held on for a tough, hard earned win. Crows’ players and fans were jubilant as the final siren sounded while Essendon faced another disappointment and more trouble on the way to threaten their chances of maintaining a place in the Top Eight.

Adelaide: 4.2 6.3 13.7 16.8  (104)
Essendon: 5.4 9.7 12.7 15.10 (100)

Best players
Adelaide: Dangerfield, Thompson, Sloane, Talia, Douglas, Walker
Essendon: Watson, Dempsey, Lovett-Murray, Browne, Carlisle, Heppell

Article last changed on Monday, August 13, 2012 - 6:22 AM EDT

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