After the upset of the Swans in Sydney by the Gold Coast Suns, a fascinating contest loomed at the Gabba. The Brisbane Lions, with three wins in a row, were looking to prove they were ready to take on bigger opponents on their home deck against the Adelaide Crows, fighting beak and claw to keep their finals hopes alive.
The result was, for a half at least, a contest worthy of two teams at the top end of the ladder, with multiple lead changes and several passages of sublime football. The second half descended into a scrap, with the Crows breaking clear in the third quarter and holding on for a hard-fought five-point win.
It was a brave effort too, with the Crows losing Tom Doedee to concussion in the third quarter and Lachlan Murphy with a broken nose shortly afterwards. With Geelong’s last-minute goal over the Demons, it leaves the Crows two points and 11 percentage points outside the eight.
But the Lions showed, again, why they’re a team on the rise. Their flair and dare was encapsulated in the first quarter when Josh Walker jumped over Mitch McGovern for a huge mark and fed the ball to Daniel Rich, who sent the ball to the goal square for Cameron Rayner to take an even bigger grab over both Daniel Talia and Doedee.
Had the Lions had more composure at key moments, they could well have won. But they also had players below recent form, while the Crows were simply better for longer, Matt Crouch finishing with 40 possessions and Rory Laird the architect at half-back before kicking the sealer late in the last quarter.
The Crows were first on the board, Rory Atkins poaching the ball from Stef Martin then kicking a perfectly weighted ball to Bryce Gibbs, who didn’t break stride running back with its flight, but the Lions were more than equal to it.
Jarrod Berry kicked their first with a snap from the right pocket, Josh Jenkins responding for the Crows with a snap of his own after outpointing Walker one-on-one, before Hugh McCluggage hit Dayne Zorko for an end-to-end goal that took all of 50 seconds.
That was before the twin efforts of Walker and Rayner gave the Lions the lead, with Oscar McInerney putting them nine points clear before the Crows hit back again, Hugh Greenwood kicking three goals in a few minutes either side of quarter-time to snatch back the initiative.
It started a pattern, the Lions hitting back with three of their own, Eric Hipwood hitting the scoreboard with a fine contested mark, but it was a rare win over Doedee, right in the frame for this year’s Rising Star award. And the Crows dominated the last 10 minutes of the quarter with three more, taking full control of the clearances.
The Lions dug in hard, Daniel McStay keeping them within a couple of kicks at half-time and Rayner underlining his enormous talent with a booming kick from outside 50 metres, and for much of the third quarter. But slowly, the Crows began to work them over, trapping the ball inside their forward half.
Greenwood, who kicked three goals on debut against the Lions last year, broke a mini-drought with his fourth to emerge as a match-winner, and Eddie Betts made a cameo with a big mark and goal to put the Crows 22 points clear at the last change.
In between, the Lions missed several shots of their own, and looked like losing both their structure and composure, and probably would have loved to have had Luke Hodge back to help settle them down. They had the better of the Crows for much of the last quarter, and had their chances, but the visitors deserved the points.
BRISBANE LIONS 4.1 8.2 9.7 13.10 (88)
ADELAIDE 3.4 9.7 12.11 13.15 (93)
GOALS: Brisbane Lions: McStay 2, Rayner 2, Berry 2, McInerney 2, Zorko, Christensen, Hipwood, Barrett, Taylor. Adelaide: Greenwood 4, Jenkins 2, Knight 2, Gibbs, Seedsman, Galluci, Betts, Laird.
BEST: Brisbane Lions: Gardiner, Witherden, Cutler, Robertson, Lester. Adelaide: M Crouch, Laird, Greenwood, Jenkins, Milera, Brown.
INJURIES: Adelaide: Doedee (concussion), Murphy (nose).
UMPIRES: Schmitt, Whetton, Mitchell.
CROWD: 20,475 at the Gabba.