The Adelaide Crows new brigade has sparked a late-season surge to the AFL finals with a comeback win against Geelong, while Port Adelaide moved one step closer to securing its spot in the eight with a win against St Kilda.
With Scott Thompson subbed off, the injured Patrick Dangerfield and Tex Walker in the grandstand, Graham Johncock retired and Kurt Tippett in Sydney, it was time for a few of the Crows young guns to stand up and be counted.
Tom Lynch, Matthew Wright, Brad Crouch and Mitch Grigg all helped pull this one out of the fire.
Wright kicked four goals, including the match-winner, after Crouch and Lynch had got them back in the hunt.
Captian Nathan van Berlo did his bit with a goal when the side most needed it.
The Crows trailed by five goals in the third quarter before a sustained rally to win 14.10 (94) to 14.8 (92) at AAMI Stadium.
Adelaide kicked eight of the last 10 goals to revive their season – they’re now two wins outside the top eight with six games remaining.
Geelong then had two chances to win in the final minute but Jimmy Bartel and Harry Taylor both missed difficult angle set shots at goal.
Adelaide had slipped 30 points behind the Cats halfway through the third term.
Adelaide’s Tom Lynch then triggered the fightback with three goals in the quarter to be within 14 points at three quarter-time.
Bernie Vince gave Adelaide momentum with a left-foot snap; Andy Otten and Brad Crouch goaled and the Crows were within a point.
Cat ruckman Mark Blicavs replied before Wright goaled on the run in the 26th minute to land the decisive blow.
Adelaide midfielders Rory Sloane (27 disposals) and Richard Douglas (31 possessions) toiled tirelessly while backman Ricky Henderson was a standout with 32 touches.
Geelong next host St Kilda while the Crows travel to meet Fremantle, both games next Saturday.
Debutant midfielder Mitch Grigg had a day to remember.
He was activated as the “concussion substitute” while Rory Laird was assessed by Adelaide’s medical staff with less than 10 minutes remaining in the first half. Laird came back and Grigg went off, before being used at the end of the third quarter to replace out-of-touch midfielder Scott Thompson.
“It was a bit different,” Grigg said.
“The first five or so minutes came in a bit of a burst and that got me tired. It was a bit of a buzz and I was just running like crazy. The pace of the game compared to SANFL, it went up by about 10 times.
“It was amazing, and to be involved in something as special as that, it was an absolute dream come true. A debut and a win … it’s awesome.
“The last 60 seconds were probably some of the most nervous moments of my life.
“Having guys like Jimmy Bartel and then Harry Taylor taking those shots, your heart sinks because they’re quality players. Obviously, they both missed and we’ve come away with an amazing win.”
Grigg was one of seven Crows with fewer than 30 games.
Earlier in the weekend, Port Adelaide withstood a blistering St Kilda comeback to salvage a narrow win and keep their AFL finals hopes in their own hands.
The Saints turned around a 39-point halftime deficit, and a Port lead which stretched to 46 points at one stage in the second term, to come within five points of victory at Etihad Stadium on Saturday night.
The Power ran out 14.13 (97) to 13.14 (92) winners to climb back into the top eight.
Port completely dominated the first half, but the momentum was shifted forcibly by St Kilda’s star players and their sheer will to win in the second.
Midfield trio Leigh Montagna, Jack Steven and Nick Dal Santo were dominant, while skipper Nick Riewoldt was also inspirational as the Saints kicked nine goals to four in the second half.
Steven’s two final-quarter goals were critical in helping St Kilda reel in Port’s 16-point lead early in the final term. The Saints finally grabbed the lead with just over 10 minutes remaining when first-gamer Tom Curren goaled – though there were a few nervous moments as he had to await a video review before it was confirmed.
Port then regained the lead with a contentious free-kick for a trip, then a 50-metre penalty, which gifted Jasper Pittard a chance to put his side back in front.
From then, Port hung on – with Justin Westhoff pulling off two huge marks in defence late in the match to help his side seal victory.
Forward John Butcher booted three goals, while Westhoff also kicked two goals to go with his defensive heroics.
Steven and Ben McEvoy kicked three goals each for the Saints, while Montagna finished with 35 disposals.
Port now have an 9-7 win-loss record, and have climbed back above Carlton – one-point Friday night winners over North Melbourne – into eighth on the ladder.
St Kilda have won just three matches this season.
After the match Port Adelaide coach Ken Hinkley warned his players to keep working as hard, or risk letting slip their strong position.
Hinkley was thrilled with both how his team performed in an irresistible first half, and in the way they hung on in the second.
“We know that if we don’t work as hard as we did tonight, we’ll get ourselves in trouble,” he said.
“I almost don’t want to talk about the outcome (finals). We’ll get what we deserve. We deserved to win the game.
“Yes, it was a game of two halves but we were brave and strong and hung on when we needed to.”
Port’s clash next weekend with the resurgent Brisbane Lions, who posted their third successive win by beating Melbourne in Darwin on Saturday night, looms as pivotal in shaping the base of the top eight.
SNAPSHOT OF THE WEEKEND’S ACTION IN ROUND 17 OF THE AFL
THEY SAID IT: “Well it’s come back to bite us on the arse eventually, hasn’t it?” – Collingwood coach Nathan Buckley comments on key forward Travis Cloke’s problems in front of goal which included a return of 2.4 in a seven-point loss to Gold Coast on Saturday.
STATS THAT MATTER: North Melbourne’s one-point loss to Carlton on Friday night was the Kangaroos’ fifth defeat by less than a goal in 2013.
MAN OF THE ROUND: Gold Coast captain Gary Ablett’s 49-possession, two-goal performance in his side’s win over Collingwood at Metricon Stadium on Saturday was arguably his finest hour since joining the Suns for the 2011 season and puts the 29-year-old on course for a second Brownlow Medal. An honourable mention goes to Sydney’s premiership star Dan Hannebery after his 40 touches and two goals against West Coast.
KEY MOMENT: Geelong’s Jimmy Bartel and Harry Taylor both missed difficult shots in the final minute of Sunday’s game at AAMI Stadium as Adelaide scored a tense upset win by two points.
TALKING POINT: St Kilda will reassess their concussion-testing methods after Dylan Roberton’s struggles during a halftime television interview showed the defender wasn’t in a fit state to return to the field. The Saints decided to sub Roberton out at halftime. “Our head trainer actually spoke to him at the time (of the second-quarter incident) and he gave all indication that he was okay. Then obviously coming off and doing the interview, the knock had certainly rattled him,” coach Scott Watters said.
TRIBUNAL WATCH: High hits from Geelong’s Jimmy Bartel on Adelaide’s Rory Laird and Adelaide’s Nathan Van Berlo on Joel Selwood will be assessed. Port Adelaide’s Tom Jonas will face scrutiny for a bump which led to St Kilda’s Dylan Roberton being subbed out with concussion at halftime of Saturday night’s game at Etihad Stadium. Hawthorn’s Cyril Rioli held Western Bulldogs player Ryan Griffen’s arm behind his back during Saturday’s game in Launceston which will be reviewed as a possible chicken-wing tackle, while Gold Coast’s Campbell Brown threw his arm back into the face of Collingwood’s Nick Maxwell in Saturday’s clash at Metricon Stadium.
KEY INJURIES: J Ziebell (NM, leg), B Goodes (WB, fractured forearm), T Scully (GWS, concussion), C Garland (Melb, ankle), J Fitzpatrick (Melb, knee), J Brown (Bris, hip), N Brown (Coll, groin), D Roberton (St K, concussion).
UNDER PRESSURE: Richmond face a tough couple of weeks against Sydney and Hawthorn, although the Tigers can take some confidence from Sunday’s 27-point win over Fremantle.
– with AAP
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