Crows, Tex hit back in style
LAST week the choke, on Saturday night the comeback, and it might not have only saved Adelaide's season but finally breathed some spirit and belief into a team that has been impossible to read this year.
Trailing Melbourne by 22 points five minutes into the final quarter - having lost their best player in Rory Sloane to a hamstring injury early in the second term - Adelaide stared a three-game losing streak in the face and found a way to fight back.
And while the Crows had many contributors in the stunning final-quarter turnaround, you could almost pinpoint it down to one man - Josh Jenkins.
It just had to be JJ who, after spending six weeks in the SANFL, returned to the senior side with a vengeance in a best-on-ground performance for his team.
Here is how Jenkins, who worked incredibly hard up the ground to present all night, kick-started the miraculous fightback in the Top End.
Adelaide trails by 22 points five minutes into the final quarter when Jenkins swooped on a loose ball, was tackled by two Demons but still managed to kick the goal with a mid-air swing to cut the margin to 16 points.
Cameron Ellis-Yolmen then pushed forward and his set shot goal made it 10 points at the 10th minute mark.
Adelaide survived a wave of Melbourne inside 50s to repel the footy and Eddie Betts got on the end of it inside 50m and kicked a goal to make it seven points the difference.
Reilly O'Brien takes a potentially goal-saving mark deep in defence in the final quarter.
Ellis-Yolmen's workrate to kick to the top of the square found Jenkins. Billy Stretch fell over, Jenkins kept his feet, won the footy, handballed to Tom Lynch and he kicked the goal. Crows trailed by three points going into time on.
Hugh Greenwood intercepts the footy at half-forward, kicks inside 50m to Eddie Betts whose set shot goes across the face.
But Betts makes amends minutes later. He won the footy in the pocket, steadied, hit Brad Crouch who kicked his third goal and the Crows were in front with 25 minutes gone.
Jake Kelly is in a one-on-one contest with Jayden Hunt who went to take a chest mark but Kelly got his fist on it.
Then in the last meaningful act of the game Sam Weideman - who only came into Melbourne's team at the last minute - took a contested mark and had a set shot but missed on the siren and the Crows won by two points.
Adelaide coach Don Pyke repeated a phrase he used last year only this time his team was on the right end of it.
"Sometimes you're the bug and sometimes you're the windshield, and tonight we ended up the windshield," Pyke said.
"Tonight - Weideman misses the shot with 30 seconds to go, that's the nature of the game, it's so even and so close.
"From our viewpoint we're obviously elated, we didn't play our best footy by any stretch but we just hung in there really well and I'm really proud of the guys and the effort they put up to grab it at the end.
"There were some guys who played some great roles for us and we just hung in there, Melbourne came out and went hard early and were able to score pretty freely - especially out of their back half and that was a concern to us - but the longer the game went we were able to stop some of that.
"When you win by two points sometimes you just end up in front when the siren goes."
Three weeks ago it was Brisbane's Lachie Neale who had 39 disposals and 12 clearances against Adelaide at the Gabba, last week West Coast's Luke Shuey had 33 and 11 at Adelaide Oval and in Darwin last night Clayton Oliver had 23 in the first half and tore them to shreds.
With part-time tagger Riley Knight out of the side, Don Pyke sent Bryce Gibbs to Oliver in the second half and the Melbourne star finished with 34 while Gibbs it should be noted laid five tackles.
Oliver was ably supported by Angus Brayshaw and James Harmes and the situation wasn't helped by the Crows losing Sloane.
When Sloane went down, Adelaide simply didn't get enough from Brad Crouch, Cameron Ellis-Yolmen and Hugh Greenwood, reinforcing how much they will be sweating on Matt Crouch to return from a hip/abdominal injury which has kept him out the past two weeks.
But the tide turned after half-time. Ellis-Yolmen, Greenwood and Crouch all lifted big time and Crouch's third goal was a game winner.
ADELAIDE'S INCLUSIONS ...
Jenkins' size alone was worrying Oscar McDonald and in the second quarter he finally drew a free kick for being held off the ball but he missed the set shot from 20m. He had another soon after from the boundary 40m out and missed but had a good moment in the last when he ran hard to the wing and out-bodied Oscar McDonald to take a strong mark.
The other well publicised inclusion was Gibbs who has been in and out of the side twice in the first 10 weeks. He started on the bench and was in everything when he came on and went into the midfield and did a good job on Oliver after half-time.
But the not-so-publicised inclusion was one of the most important. Tom Lynch was touch-and-go during the week with a hamstring injury that saw him miss last week's loss to the Eagles and was crucial. Playing his usual link-up role he gave the defenders a target on the wing and kicked a set shot goal in the first half then another with a classy snap around his body in the third quarter.
RUN, RUN RUN
Wayne Milera, Brodie Smith and Rory Laird combined as all Crows fans would hope last night.
After his three goals last week Milera started forward, then went on the ball and laid a big tackle on Jack Viney to catch him holding the ball. In the second quarter he was moved to half-back and set them up where combined with Laird and Smith they never stopped trying to get their side going, particularly Smith with his dashing sidestep and penetrating kick, but Adelaide was too often outnumbered inside 50m.
It didn't always work and Smith's handball to a running Rory Atkins in the third quarter turned the footy over at an important moment when the game was still on the line. But their never-say-die attitude was crucial in the comeback.
In a footy sense that wasn't quite the week from hell - that would surely have been after the 2017 grand final - but it must have been close when Walker was at the bottom of a pile-on of former greats accusing him of not going hard enough.
It took him 20 minutes to get his first kick and when he did it was on the lead from a Milera clearance. Too often the Crows didn't honour his lead because they either couldn't see him or thought he was in a bad position, but his long range bomb from outside 50m in the third quarter sparked his side and like Jenkins he was enormous in the final quarter.
COAST TO COAST
Despite the win, Adelaide will be concerned by how easy Melbourne moved the footy from end to end. They scored too many easy goals and late in the final term took 14 uncontested marks inside 50m which is unforgivable. Thankfully for Crows fans they tightened up in the second half and final term in particular.
ADELAIDE 4.0 5.3 9.4 14.6 (90)
MELBOURNE 6.3 9.4 11.8 12.16 (88)
BEST - Adelaide: Jenkins, Lynch, Crouch, Keath, Smith, Laird. Melbourne: Oliver, Harmes, Garlett, Jones, Brayshaw, Gawn.
GOALS - Adelaide: Lynch 3, Crouch 3, Jenkins 2, Betts 2, Murphy, Gallucci, Walker Ellis-Yolmen. Melbourne: Garlett 3, Harmes, Petracca, Hunt, Weideman, Brayshaw, Oliver, Smith, Jones, Hannan.
INJURIES - Adelaide: Sloane (hamstring).
UMPIRES - N. Foot, R. O'Gorman, A. Mitchell.
CROWD - 10,634 at TIO Stadium.
REECE HOMFRAY'S VOTES:
3: Clayton Oliver (Melb)
2: Josh Jenkins (Adel)
1: Tom Lynch (Adel).