Given the state of the AFL ladder, Adelaide were laughing all the way to the bank after their 22-point defeat of Melbourne.
The Crows peeled away from the Demons late in yesterday afternoon’s match to ensure they keep pace with the finals field.
Adelaide are one of six teams to finish round 15 on a 10-4 record, below Geelong, GWS and Sydney on percentage and above Western Bulldogs and North Melbourne.
The tightness of the competition means no side can be sure of where they’ll have to play their finals matches.
But given the biggest match of all is played on the MCG, it’s understandable why Crows winger David Mackay would delight in the result.
“We only have a couple of games here a year and for that reason it’s always tough to come over and win,” he said.
“You understand this is where the big games are played so it’s really important to try and play well here.”
Adelaide won a stirring elimination final against Western Bulldogs at the MCG last year before losing at the same ground in a semi-final with premiers Hawthorn the week after.
The Crows return to the home of football next Sunday to take on Carlton, giving Don Pyke’s side a chance to claim eight points at the MCG in eight days.
While understandably pleased to pick up four points on the road, Pyke said the manner of the win left enough to keep them busy before returning to Melbourne.
“We’ll keep working on everything,” he said.
“Some of our clearance work was good, some of it wasn’t on the level.
“Our team defence is still a continuing work in progress. At times we didn’t use the ball that well.
“We keep working away. We’re not sitting here going ‘we’re satisfied’.
“We’re looking to keep improving and we know we need to keep improving to play strong footy against all opposition.”
In a freewheeling match, the Crows finished stronger to emerge triumphant with an 18.12 (120) to 15.8 (98) victory and extend their winning streak to six, improving to fifth on the ladder.
Playing on was not an umpire’s direction but a way of life at the MCG, where both sides brought an attacking intent to the contest.
Adelaide’s midfield machine and attacking firepower proved the difference, one year to the day of the death of Crows’ coach Phil Walsh.
The Crows boasted six multiple goalscorers and an even spread of contributors in the middle, led by Brad Crouch and Rory Sloane.
Taylor Walker, Eddie Betts and Richard Douglas kicked three goals each.
Despite the loss there would be few Melbourne fans among the 29,133 in attendance that would leave unsatisfied with the Demons’ effort.
Nathan Jones was the game’s elite performer with 33 disposals, while Jeff Garlett was their spark in attack with four goals and a hand in more.
The Crows stole an early break on an errant Melbourne, taking a 17-point lead at quarter-time.
Melbourne banished their errors and roared back into the contest.
Led by Garlett, Paul Roos’ side kicked eight second quarter goals as their run-and-gun style bore fruit and a halftime lead.
It was then Adelaide’s turn to surge as their midfield took over to win the first 10 clearances of the third term.
Walker and Betts helped the Crows to five goals in nine minutes to wrest control back.
Still the Demons came, finishing the third quarter just nine points in arrears.
Their challenge was snuffed out by a disciplined Adelaide side in the final term as they kept kept Melbourne at bay.
A tackle count of 101-74 would have delighted Pyke, who was most pleased about recovering a halftime deficit.
“To our players credit, they found a way in the end,” he said.
“We had a good conversation at halftime about what happened in the second quarter… the players then owned that and went out and put it into action.”
Roos rued the Demons’ slow start after halftime.
“They’re very good for playing for 120 minutes. We felt that five, ten minute patch in the third (quarter) was the difference,” he said.
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