In one of the great turnarounds in modern football, the Adelaide Crows snatched victory in the dying moments to win Showdown XLV – just like Port Adelaide did in the eighth series.
Their three-point win under incredible pressure keeps the Crows’ finals hopes alive. It’s a weak pulse, but on Saturday night the 50,377 fans at their home game are just savouring every moment.
The game finished in controversial circumstances when a shot at goal by Josh Jenkins with two minutes and 38 seconds remaining that gave them the lead appeared to hit the post, but a review confirmed the umpire’s call.
‘‘My grandma raised me not to tell fibs. I think it hit the post, but I’m pretty happy that they didn’t think so,’’ Jenkins told Fox Footy after the match.
Adelaide snatched the lead at the 14-minute mark of the last term, but when Robbie Gray kicked his second goal of the term and fourth for the match, there were signs Port would steal this again. The odds increased in their favour when Chad Wingard somehow was left alone in the goalsquare and goaled to give Port a 10-point lead.
Then up jumped Eddie Betts. Who else? He had virtually done nothing the whole match when he turned over a shocking mistake by Port’s defence and Jenkins became the biggest hero.
During all of this hectic finish was the fact that, unlike round eight, the Crows didn’t wilt under the pressure. They played out the dying minutes as good as any side possibly could amidst the madness.
Gray was awarded the Showdown medal ahead of a host of worthy contenders.
This loss for Port will seriously dent their top-four chances, which merely adds to the delight of the Crows’ fans who had been hurting so much since that round eight five-point defeat.
There were heroes and hard-luck moments, and it wasn’t just about a lot of possessions and heaps of goals, but their coaches setting individuals huge tasks of nullifying their opponents who loomed as match winners.
The quality of this game was a clear reminder again that it is not always about the big scores, but the full-on contests with every loose ball, and a mistake here and there under enormous pressure proving costly.
The 44 previous Showdowns were terrific matches, but this rates as one of the best for the never-say-die approach of both sides. Full credit to the Crows, but you also have to hand it to Port for their magnificent performance.
Given all the hard work in this game, the fickled fates of fortune like foolish 50-metre penalties could have cost both sides goals. There were also the moments when Adelaide’s Taylor Walker could have plucked match greatness with unlikely gems, but he failed to convert. Nonetheless, his contribution was invaluable. But then, this game wasn’t about goals, but that unrelenting defensive pressure. It was great stuff.
The defensive value was epitomised so well by Darcy Byrne-Jones, who for most put quelled the effectiveness of Adelaide’s ball magnet Rory Laird. He gave Port that real chance, but at the same time Gray’s effort should not be diminished.
The first half was particularly enthralling with Adelaide winning most of the indicators including inside-50 entries and contested possessions, but trailed on the scoreboard by nine points. It got down to efficiency under the intense pressure, and it was here that Port had the important edge.
Port went into the game with the proven better defence; the Crows with a better attack, and for most part it got down to that. Ultimately, Port’s unrelenting attack on the ball deep in Adelaide’s forward line won out.
Amidst this intensity were some great facets of the game. We had Kane Farrell, 19-year-old from Castlemaine playing only his second AFL game kicking three goals in the first quarter. After Rory Sloane goaled on the run from 49 metres to stir the emotion of this game, Port’s Chad Wingard goaled from within the centre square and 62 seconds later goaled again.
The battle in ruck was also interesting with Port’s Paddy Ryder having the slightest of edges over gallant Sam Jacobs.
Add all these elements with the pressure – and occasional fumbles at crucial stages – and this Showdown was a magnificent contest.
ADELAIDE 5.3 7.8 9.14 13.18 (96)
PORT ADELAIDE 5.3 9.5 10.9 14.9 (93)
Goals: Adelaide: J Jenkins 3 R Sloane 2 E Betts H Greenwood J Gallucci L Murphy M Crouch T Doedee T Lynch T Walker. Port Adelaide: C Wingard 4 R Gray 4 K Farrell 3 T Boak 2 D Byrne-Jones.
Best – Adelaide: Jenkins, Sloane, Gibbs, Crouch, Doedee, Atkins.Port: R. Gray, Byrne-Jones, Ryder, Houston, Boak, Polec.
Injuries – Adelaide: Talia (leg)
Umpires: Mathew Nicholls, Brett Rosebury, Andrew Mitchell
Official Crowd: 50,377 at Adelaide Oval
J. Jenkins (Adel)… 8
R. Gray (Port)… 8
R. Sloane (Adel)… 8
R. Gibbs (Adel)… 8
D. Byrne-Jones (PA)… 8
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