Crows get job done over Blues but cop another hamstring worry

The Adelaide Crows registered a predictable – albeit not always easy – win over Carlton at Adelaide tonight, but were again seriously concerned with a hamstring strain to exciting defender Wayne Milera.

Best on ground last week, he joins a growing list of Crows with hamstring problems, and is unlikely to play in Showdown XLIV next Saturday night.

It was ultimately a convincing margin, but Carlton lost no fans despite their 0-7 shocking start because for most part they were seriously tough and competitors who gave their all.

The real talking point wasn’t so much Adelaide’s fifth win of the season, or the heart the Blues showed early, but a few experiments by Adelaide’s coach Don Pyke. We had Pagan’s Paddock almost 25 years ago, and tonight the Adelaide Crows revealed Pyke’s Back Eight. Then it was his seven.

Don Pyke tried eight players lined-up in the backlines for the centre bounces, with Josh Jenkins, Mitch McGovern, who had a change of role with the absence of Taylor Walker, rookie Darcy Fogarty and Eddie Betts – as their stand-out forwards.

Overall, the ploy produced impact. The Crows rebounded forcefully and quickly and reduced much of the early congestion in their forward lines that has brought criticism for tarnishing the AFL product.

But not for one moment did it stop Adelaide from having just about every player flooding Carlton’s forward lines. To Carlton’s credit, they halted Adelaide’s early seven-goal onslaught and made them work hard to clear the ball. Coach Brendon Bolton would have surely been pleased with his players’ ability to force turnovers – up til then.

Carlton enjoyed the second term where they actually out-played and won more hard-ball gets to stun the Crows, even going from end-to-end to complete a string of three goals.

After stunning the Blues to lead by 31 points at quarter-time, the Crows seemed flustered. However, it wasn’t really Pyke’s back-eight at the centre bounces that saw the Crows falter, but Carlton’s willingness to take the game on by simply throwing their bodies into every contest without fear.

To win a majority of the key factors and outscore Adelaide 4.3 to 2.1 in the second term may not seem riveting, but given Carlton’s perilous position it was significant in the bigger picture that Bolton is trying to draw.

At the same time, take away Adelaide’s awful second term when the half-time margin was clipped to 17 points, and there was a lot to like about them.

Pyke’s Back Eight went to a Super Seven in the third quarter and the balance seemed far better, coinciding with a far better attack on the ball and swift movement. The Blues remained tenacious, but like so many times this season they simply didn’t have the man-power midfield.

The move of taking McGovern away from the backlines was a real winner. He took some sensational marks, especially late in the third term, and was a constant threat. With Walker due to return next week, Pyke now has a pleasant option to consider.

Among Adelaide’s dominant midfielders was Bryce Gibbs against his former club. He worked incredibly hard under intense pressure and found ways to drive Adelaide, especially when Carlton set up a very good pressing zone.

Rory Laird produced his now typical performance; ever defiant in the harshest of contests and finding teammates to set up quality running play. Matt Crouch has returned to gaining heaps of touches, while Sam Jacobs was the dominant ruckman.

However, Eddie Betts wasn’t at his best, which was understandable given his return from a hamstring injury.

Cam Ellis-Yolman continues to impress with his solid and often creative play on the ball, but like so many others in this Crows quad his battle on the AFL fringe list will continue when others return from injury.

Kade Simpson worked so hard for Carlton and consistently orchestrated some positive movement from defence. Dale Thomas belied his age once more with a sound effort, while Patrick Cripps and Ed Curnow were very much part of that second-quarter revival.

Like every coach, Pyke focuses heavily on how often his players win the contested ball. They did a good job tonight, especially when considering it definitely wasn’t a case of Carlton making it easy for them.

It must be tough for the Blues’ fans, and we have heard of all the words of hope previously, but these Crows played in a grand final last year and Carlton is bottom. This current list at least has character; tonight showed they all need some class midfielders.

ADELAIDE
7.2 9.3 15.8 19.11 (125)
CARLTON
2.1 6.4 7.8 10.10 (70)

GOALS – Adelaide: McGovern 5, Jenkins 3, Douglas 2, Lynch 2, Betts 2, Greenwood 2, Laird, Gibbs, Mackay
Carlton: Casboult 2, McKay 2, Kreuzer, Phillips, Dow, Graham, Wright, E.Curnow

BEST – Adelaide: McGovern, Greenwood, Laird, Gibbs, Jacobs, Ellis-Yolman
Carlton: E. Curnow, Simpson, Thomas, Cripps, Kerridge, O’Shea

INJURIES:Adelaide: Milera (hamstring)
UMPIRES: Stevic, Brown, Harris
CROWD: 47,422 at the Adelaide Oval

VOTES
McGovern (Adel) 8
Greenwood (Adel) 8
Laird (Adel) 8
Gibbs (Adel) 7
Jacobs (Adel) 7

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