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Match of the Day: A super start settles it for Adelaide

You’re not going anywhere: Adelaide’s David Mackay and Rory Sloane are desperate in smothering Brandan Parfitt’s kick. Photo: GETTY IMAGES

Match of the Day: A super start settles it for Adelaide

Rohan Connolly    

Nearly two decades without a grand final appearance and four losing preliminary finals along the way can play on the minds of even the warmest favourite.

Adelaide had everything going for it against Geelong on Friday night. The best form of any side this season, a big home ground advantage, a recent win over the opponent at the same venue. All of which might have counted for nought if they didn’t play their cards right.

What the Crows most needed was a good start. One emphatic enough to not only get the jump on the Cats, but free themselves of any last vestiges of doubt, soothe the nerves and settle the weight of expectation.

Adelaide got all that and then some. So good was the flyer the Crows got off to that the vast bulk of what might have been a nerve-wracking test for a grand final berth became instead a celebration of sorts.

The biggest job was still to be carried out, but the always-comfortable margin at least allowed Adelaide some time to soak up the fact that not only did it now have the chance to make all the hard work really pay off, but that theirs is a club which has withstood all sorts of challenges, trials, tribulations and even unthinkable tragedy to get there.

This was the best side of the season playing, early on, arguably the best standard of football seen in 2017. The stars were everywhere. The Crouch brothers, as per usual, racking up the touches. Rory Laird steadfast, brilliant and creative off half-back. And midfield and up forward, Charlie Cameron putting on a clinic with five goals.

Geelong, frankly, didn’t look in the same class. The Cats were jumped badly, tried valiantly to work their way back into the contest via the usual source of “Dangerwood”, but never once after quarter-time were able to creep any closer than five goals.

Right from the start of this game, Adelaide looked like a team on a mission. It wasn’t just the fact the Crows’ first two goals came in under three minutes, it was how they came about.

Charlie Cameron had the first after a brilliant Richard Douglas smother on Harry Taylor, a desperate dive from Eddie Betts to pounce on the loose ball and feed off a handball for the resultant snap.

Betts himself had the second after a textbook tap from ruckman Sam Jacobs, the little man grabbing the spoils at full tilt and booting one on his left.

Nakia Cockatoo stemmed the bleeding, but only briefly, for then Adelaide cut loose with another volley of six-pointers. Jacobs bobbed up to mark and goal. Then Tom Lynch, already creating havoc as the mobile link between defence and attack, chipped in with two goals in four minutes.

The Crows were already four goals up, with alarms in the Geelong coaching box going off everywhere, and Patrick Dangerfield, starting up forward again, doing little but cool his heels. Not only were Adelaide harder at the contest, their efficiency was razor-sharp, eight inside 50s producing five goals.

Everything the Crows touched was turning to gold. You almost knew that when Taylor was pinged for a deliberate out of bounds in a back-pocket, Betts the recipient of the free kick, Eddie was going to do it once again from the tightest of angles. Never in doubt.

That was hardly the end of it, either. Lynch hit Josh Jenkins with a lovely pass a minute into the second term for another. Paul Seedsman, a valuable late-season addition to this line-up, chimed in with a snap then a boot off the ground for his own double.

Just six minutes into the second quarter, it was a whopping 48 points. For all the world game over. Credit at least to Geelong then for to some degree fighting its way out of a hole.

Dangerfield, thankfully back in the thick of the action, and Joel Selwood, not surprisingly, were the instigators of the revival as the Cats, the Brownlow medallist with a dozen second-term touches.

Geelong would boot four of the next five goals of the game, three of them to the pair of champions, Mitch Duncan weighing in on the run.

In that context, Andy Otten’s mark and goal with under a minute left on the clock, was critical. A gap that had been reduced to under five goals suddenly looked a mountain to climb once more.

Which is pretty much what we got after half-time. Geelong desperately trying to scramble back within touching distance, Adelaide always finding the answers before things got too nerve-wracking.

Darcy Lang’s opening goal of the second half was returned with interest by Cameron, who repeated Betts’ effort of the first term, coolly running around on to his right foot and threading the eye of the needle, then Matt Crouch. Tom Hawkins got one back, but Cameron went one better with a huge pack mark 20 metres out for his fourth goal.

And in terms of what passed for resistance, that was about that. The last quarter was pure party time, Adelaide driving home another seven goals as Jenkins and Taylor Walker, mere bit players until then, cashed in with five between them.

It was 61 points by the finish, the record crowd lapping up every moment, even seasoned veterans like Betts overcome with emotion. They weren’t getting ahead of themselves, they know what still needs to be done.

But if there was any last scintilla of self-doubt in the minds of the Crows, this was the performance which extinguished it. Adelaide hasn’t won this premiership yet. But already you can say the Crows are very worthy of one.

ADELAIDE 6.3 11.7 14.10 21.10 (136)
GEELONG 1.2 5.8 8.11 10.15 (75)

GOALS – ADELAIDE: Cameron 5, Jenkins 4, Walker 2, Betts 2, Lynch 2, Seedsman 2, Jacobs, Otten, M.Crouch, Knight. GEELONG: Dangerfield 2, Cockatoo, Duncan, Selwood, Lang, Hawkins, Motlop, Henderson, Menegola.

BEST – ADELAIDE: Laird, Cameron, M.Crouch, Seedsman, B.Crouch, Talia. GEELONG: J.Selwood, Motlop, Taylor, Dangerfield, Duncan, Mackie.

UMPIRES: Rosebury, Stevic, Schmitt

CROWD: 53,817 at Adelaide Oval

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