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Crows edge determined Blues

Nick Bowen, AFL Media  July 1, 2017 5:02 PM

Highlights: R15 v Carlton See all the highlights from the win at the MCG

Adelaide has survived an almighty scare from Carlton and maintained its hold on a top-two spot with a hard-fought 12-point win at the MCG on Saturday, its fourth straight win at the venue.

The Crows entered the match as the competition's highest scoring team and looked set to do as they pleased when they rammed on four unanswered goals in the opening 15 minutes.

But the Blues soon got the game back on their defensive terms and threatened to pull off an upset win when a Dale Thomas goal put them one point in front at the 12-minute mark of the final term.

The Crows then kicked the next three goals to prevail 13.11 (89) to 12.5 (77) and leapfrog GWS to the top of the table, pending the result of the Giants' clash with Geelong at Spotless Stadium on Saturday night.

The Blues cut an 18-point quarter-time deficit to six points at half-time and drew level midway through the third term when they kicked three of the first five goals in the third term.

But Adelaide kicked the final six scores before three-quarter time – only one was a goal – and appeared to have a comfortable buffer when Josh Jenkins extended their lead to 17 points with a goal early in the final quarter.

The Blues, however, were not about to roll over. Goals to Charlie Curnow and Matt Wright cut the margin to five points before Thomas' goal from 49m gave them the lead for the first time all day.

Taylor Walker levelled the scores with a behind three minutes later and a rushed behind soon after gave the Crows the lead.

A clever left-foot snap from Matt Crouch at the 18-minute mark put Adelaide seven points up and consecutive goals by Jenkins and Riley Knight then put the result beyond doubt.

Brodie Smith (30 possessions), Brad Crouch (30) and Matt Crouch (29) were prolific ball-winners for the Crows, and were ably supported by Richard Douglas (25).

Jake Lever's class was important in defence for the Crows, Daniel Talia kept Levi Casboult (two goals) quiet for most of the day and Jenkins chipped in with a game-high three goals.

Adelaide coach Don Pyke was proud of his team's ability to grind out a win against a tough defensive opponent.

"It was always going to be one of those (ugly sort of) games. Carlton have played that sort of style most of the year and, to their credit, they're a really strong, defensive side, so we knew they were going to try and play that style because that's the way they've done it and they've won some games doing that, so I’m just proud of our guys for hanging in there," Pyke said.

"We got challenged in the last quarter – Carlton got in front – and we were able to find a way to get a win. 

"Sometimes that's what you do in this game. It's not always about high-scoring and free-flowing footy. It's a good test case for what we think we're going to experience in the coming weeks, so we learn and reflect and move on."

More from Don Pyke post-match

Bryce Gibbs (30 possessions) was outstanding for Carlton through the midfield and kicked two goals – the second of them after a spectacular pack mark early in the third term – and set up a Liam Sumner goal in the third quarter with a beautifully weighted chip pass.

Born-again key defender Liam Jones and ruckman Matthew Kreuzuer continued their  outstanding recent form, while second-year forward Charlie Curnow (22 possessions and 11 marks) served notice of his boundless potential.

Patrick Cripps (29 possessions) and Marc Murphy (29) were also influential for the Blues through the midfield.

Carlton coach Brendon Bolton said his team's performance showed how much it had grown since its 60-point loss to the Crows at the MCG in Round 16 last year.

Bolton said the Blues had been able to get back into the game late in the first quarter by starting to press and getting the game played in their front half.

But he said they would have to learn from their failure to get over the line in the last quarter.

"They're not big things, they're an accumulation of little things: misconnection with the footy, maybe not taking ground under pressure when required, missed tackles," Bolton said of the areas that had let his team down.

"I think that's what it is in high performance, the accumulation of little things. Our players understand that, but you've sometimes got to live it to really appreciate it and we'll do that.

"We'll go and have a good look at it."

The game's opening 15 minutes suggested the contest might prove a true reflection of the teams' ladder positions, when the second-placed Crows sliced through the 15th-placed Blues' defences to kick four unanswered goals.

Carlton did not score until the 25-minute mark, when David Cuningham converted a set shot from 35m. It was the Blues' only score for the quarter, but they had managed to keep Adelaide scoreless in the second half of the term, ensuring they went into the first break just 18 points down.

The Crows continued to find goals hard to come by in the second term and it was Blues midfielder Cripps who kicked the first major of the term, when he bombed a set shot from 53m after taking a strong mark on the lead.

Gibbs cut the Crows' lead to six points when he added another goal for Carlton two minutes later.

The teams went goal for goal in the second half of the term.

First, Knight converted for Adelaide after receiving a free kick at top of the goal square, then Jack Silvagni kicked truly for the Blues after a two-bounce run. Rory Sloane hit back for the Crows when he goaled from short range after a spectacular pack mark, only to watch his direct opponent, Sam Kerridge, burst from the next centre bounce and bomb a 60m major.

At half-time, the Crows led by six points.

MEDICAL ROOM
Carlton: Caleb Marchbank landed heavily on his right shoulder after a marking contest early in the final quarter. After going down to the Blues' rooms for assessment, Marchbank returned to the action soon after. Lachie Plowman appeared to hurt a finger in the last term but played on. Jacob Weitering also came from the ground in the final term favouring an ankle. Carlton coach Brendon Bolton said after the game he expected all three defenders to be "OK". "I haven't been given a message that they won't be right, so I would have thought they're all alright. (They're) just sore, you get that in those sort of games."

Adelaide: Kyle Hartigan reached for his hamstring as he tried to spoil Charlie Curnow on the wing late in the third quarter. The Crows defender was near the interchange bench at the time and hobbled straight there before being helped down to the rooms. He played no further part in the match.  A Crows spokesman confirmed after the game Hartigan had suffered a hamstring injury, but said the Club would have "to wait and see" how severe it was. Coach Don Pyke later added: "We'll certainly have to replace Kyle."

NEXT UP
The Crows host the Western Bulldogs at the Adelaide Oval next Friday night, which will be the first time the teams have met at the new home of South Australian football. The Blues take on Melbourne at the MCG next Sunday, having lost to the Demons at the same venue earlier in the year, by 22 points in Round Two.


CARLTON    
1.0   5.1   8.2   12.5 (77)
ADELAIDE   4.0   6.1   9.7   13.11 (89)

GOALS
Carlton: Gibbs 2, Casboult 2, Cuningham, Cripps, Silvagni, Kerridge, Sumner, Curnow, Wright, Thomas
Adelaide: Jenkins 3, Betts 2, Knight 2, Smith, McGovern, Sloane, Walker, Jacobs, M.Crouch

BEST
Carlton: Gibbs, Cripps, Jones, Kreuzer, Kerridge, Curnow
Adelaide: M.Crouch, Smith, B.Crouch, Jenkins, Douglas, Lever

INJURIES
Carlton: Marchbank (right shoulder), Plowman (dislocated finger), Weitering (ankle)
Adelaide: Hartigan (hamstring)

Reports: Nil

Umpires: Dalgleish, Harris, Pannell

Official crowd: 33,433 at the MCG