Rick Browner reporting for AFANA from Patersons Stadium, Perth
Fremantle tuned up its Finals' aspirations with a comfortable win over the Adelaide Crows on a wet, windy evening in the west. It was a strange game, often reduced to periods of tedium as neither side lit up the scoreboard. Fremantle because they had a record low number of forward fifty entries and Adelaide because they couldn’t kick straight.
It was a lively start. As the teams lined up for the bounce Danyle Pearce and Michael Walters, not the most imposing of Fremantle’s players, decided to take on the entire Adelaide back line with some rough stuff. The resulting melee saw the umpire award a free kick to the Crows instead of starting the game with the traditional ball bounce. With the aid of a strong breeze, Adelaide booted the ball into their forward fifty meter arc and kept it there, kicking the first two goals of the match. Things might have turned out differently in the long run had the Crows made the most of their early opportunities with the wind, but some poor kicking, even with 50 meter penalties, had them squandering chances. Bernie Vince and Shaun McKernan were the two worst offenders. Fremantle moved Aaron Sandilands to the forward line and started to get hands on the ball from the stoppages. Up until then, despite Sandllands' huge size advantage in the ruck, the Crows were sharking the ball and taking it out to clear ground. Walters, who by now had decided to play football rather than wrestling, took on the Crows in a more constructive way. He kicked two goals, both from difficult positions, and gave one to Nate Fyfe to put the Dockers in front by four points at the end of the first quarter.
Fremantle had a turn of pace and determination, peppering the goals and playing much of the game in their half. The breeze helped push the ball towards the city end and the Dockers kicked three unanswered goals to give them a lead that was to carry them through the rest of the game. Best on ground Fyfe showed his dash for the third goal when he ran 70 meters, bouncing the ball before slotting it through. The rest of the quarter needed to be put on fast forward. There was no urgency from either side as they chipped the ball around, maintaining possession and generally boring the crowd. Adelaide failed to kick a goal and looked flat footed and without inspiration. They had fallen off the pace and went into the half time break trailing by 23 points.
There must have been a severe talking to by the coach during the main break because the Adelaide players came out of the rooms and started to play some bright, entertaining football. Known this season for a couple of big come-from-behind wins, they started to play like they were planning for another one. Ricky Henderson got them rolling with a huge 65 meter bomb that sailed on the breeze and went through the middle. Rory Sloane decided to take the Dockers on by himself and was carving them up, farming the ball out effectively to teammates running alongside him. The Crows started to control the football and delivered it to dangerous positions. They quickly hauled back three goals and got within a kick of getting in front when they inexplicably stalled, promptly giving back the three goal lead they had just whittled away. Fyfe was having the game of his career and his goal against the run of play lit the fuse. Poor old Bernie Vince looked the wrong way at the wrong time and wore Matt de Boer’s knee in his face as de Boer took flight in the air to take a mark. It was definitely not the weekend Bernie had in mind and he was taken off for the medicos to stitch him up. For all their endeavor the Crows were no better off when the third quarter ended.
Again the Crows came off the break with a rush to try and get back into a winning position. Tom Lynch kicked their first and nearly had another very soon after which would have set the locals' hearts thumping. Josh Jenkins added to the Crow woes when he landed awkwardly in a marking contest and fractured his lower leg. With their substitute on the ground already, the Crows had reduced numbers on the bench to give the other players a spell. Predictably fatigue set in for both sides and some scrappy, error-ridden play resulted. Two goals to the Dockers, Fyfe’s fourth being one of them, effectively sealed the game. Vince kicked the last goal of the game for the Crows but Fremantle held onto a 22 point lead to take the win.
It was a wonder that Fremantle won given that they tied the AFL record for the lowest number of entries into the forward 50 meter zone by a winning team. They also lost the disposals, contested possessions and the tackle count to the Crows but still managed to pull off a three goal win. Adelaide joins three other teams outside the Top Eight, lying in a no man’s land where only the statisticians get excited with their number crunching for a Top Eight berth. Effectively they are out of the race while Fremantle, with a friendly draw in the upcoming weeks, is poised to jag fourth spot and a double chance in the Finals.
Scoreboard Fremantle: 3.2 6.5 9.8 11.9 (75) Adelaide: 2.4 2.6 5.9 7.11 (53) Best players Fremantle: Fyfe, Hill, Clarke, Johnson, Walters, D Pearce Adelaide: Sloane, Vince, Crouch, Thompson, Henderson, Lynch
Article last changed on Thursday, August 01, 2013 - 10:03 AM EDT