ADELAIDE 4.5 7.8 12.15 17.17 (119) FREMANTLE 3.3 7.4 10.5 14.7 (91)
GOALS Adelaide: Walker 4, Callinan 2, Wright 2, Dangerfield 2, Riley, Vince, Mackay, Johncock, Douglas, Sloane, Thompson. Fremantle: Walters 3, Pavlich 2, Mayne, Pearce, Ballantyne, Bradley, Neale, Barlow, De Boer, Duffield, Hill.
BEST Adelaide: Dangerfield, Wright, Talia, Mackay, Jacobs, Walker. Fremantle: Crowley, Mundy, De Boer, Barlow, Duffield, Pearce.
INJURIESFremantle: Fyfe (ankle) and Silvagni (sickness) replaced in selected side by Roberton and Neale; Mayne (concussion).
UMPIRES Wenn, McBurney, Margetts.
CROWD 35,027 at AAMI Stadium.
ADELAIDE took a giant stride in its continued development in the march to September with a disciplined and grinding 28-point victory over Fremantle at AAMI Stadium yesterday.
As expected, the Ross Lyon defensive zone and constant pressure, which had troubled the Crows for the past five years during his tenure at St Kilda, stifled Adelaide for the first half until a midfield revival led magnificently by Patrick Dangerfield and supported by a star cast took the sting out of the Dockers.
Significantly, Adelaide's 17.17 was the equal-highest score against Fremantle this season, matching Hawthorn's identical scoreline at Aurora Stadium in round eight.
To record 34 scoring shots to 21, and to respond when Fremantle held the lead for 70 seconds late in the second term, suggests Adelaide has the ability and composure to win when the play is closed down, the scenario of so many tough finals.
Again, a key feature of the Crows' win was the resilience of some incredibly talented defenders, led by Daniel Talia, a clear winner over Matthew Pavlich, who was instrumental in Fremantle's run of five wins going into this game. It was a stunning performance by the youngster that may have clinched him the NAB Rising Star Award.
And surely Dangerfield earned another three votes to put him in strong contention for the Brownlow Medal. He finished with two goals from 50 metres-plus and 33 disposals, significantly 21 of them were contested possessions and nine were clearances. Then add eight tackles.
But Lyon perhaps summed it up best when he described Adelaide as a potent force.
"That's what drives the Adelaide football team, their midfield, make no mistake about it," Lyon said. "They protect their defence and their forwards get good opportunity; that's the size of it.
"I thought they got some really easy turnover goals. At the end of the day their midfield got on top. Dangerfield exploded in the third. Gee whiz, to have 21 contested possessions. I looked at the screen at one stage and they [Adelaide] had 11 ground balls and he had six of them."
But with a fabulous supporting act by a very underrated Matthew Wright with possibility his finest game, this was really a complete team effort.
As Adelaide coach Brenton Sanderson said with pride, a lot of players stood up in this game and did the team thing. Taylor Walker kicked four goals, but his contesting at other times was outstanding; splitting packs and making it easier for players such as Josh Jenkins and smaller players to mark. As Sanderson said: "He's [Walker] not a one-trick pony."
Ryan Crowley was outstanding in the way he wore Scott Thompson like a proverbial glove, but the Crows showed their diversity when Thompson went forward and took Crowley with him, and others did midfield damage on his behalf.
Fremantle let itself down in the first half by not making the most of its opportunities. The crunch was that Adelaide went inside-50 18 times for 7.8, while Fremantle went in 28 times for 7.4.
The Dockers' discipline was a concern at times, although three of the four 50-metre penalties they gave away, costing 1.3, were dubious. The undeniable one that really hurt was when Fremantle was making inroads to wiping out a 22-point three-quarter-time deficit and Crowley gave away a foolish penalty that cost a goal, bringing the margin back to 21 points. Again, when Pavlich kicked a goal from 55 metres 10 minutes into the last quarter you could sense the Dockers could recover, but a minute later loose checking in defence gave Wright an easy goal.
Losing Nathan Fyfe (ankle) before the game certainly didn't help, and neither did the forced subbing of Chris Mayne (concussion) at half-time. The Dockers battled on gamely, again showing there is fibre in this unit, but the decline in midfield control and untidy moments cost them dearly.
ON THE SIDELINES
Alex Silvagni was called up for his fourth game this season as a replacement for Luke McPharlin (suspension). However, Silvagni was a late withdrawal, along with the big loss of Nathan Fyfe (ankle).
JOHNSTON SHOWS QUALITY
Lewis Johnston was impressive in the forward lines in his first game for the Crows, after two AFL games with Sydney Swans last year. He competed well, and his long kicking proved an asset as the Crows tried to jump the Dockers' zone.
The deliberate out-on-the-full free was again a topic of discussion following a splash of free kicks in recent weeks, and adding to this was at least three 50-metre penalties that looked soft. Obviously the umpires have been told to issue a few messages leading into the finals.