Fremantle are in danger of losing touch with the top eight after suffering a gallant 29-point defeat to Adelaide at Patersons Stadium this afternoon.
The hosts paid the penalty of a poor second-quarter lapse, with the Crows rallying late to shake off an inspired fight back and kick away to triumph 17.9 (111) to 12.10 (82).
The loss leaves the Dockers languishing in 11th on the ladder, a win and considerable percentage behind eighth-placed Geelong.
They will be under massive pressure not to lose further ground in coming weeks, with games against in-form trio Richmond, Essendon and Collingwood to follow.
Dasher Stephen Hill also appeared to hurt an AC joint during the third quarter, but played out the game in a positive sign for Fremantle.
The Crows led by as much as 36 points at the 19-minute mark of the second term on the back of Rory Sloane and Patrick Dangerfield’s midfield brilliance.
From that point the Dockers clawed their way back into the contest, playing on at all costs rather reverting back to the stagnant football that had resulted in costly losses to West Coast and Hawthorn in recent weeks.
They discovered some leadership in the form of Chris Mayne, whose contested efforts inside 50 created three goals to help Fremantle surge.
A lift from Aaron Sandilands around the stoppages contributed to the turning of the tide.
Fremantle trailed by nine points at the final break and hit the lead for just the second time in the match on the back of goals to Mayne and Matthew Pavlich to start the final term.
Adelaide needed someone to stand up and Sloane heeded the call.
He read a clever tap from Sam Jacobs off a stoppage to slot his third goal and continued to find the ball at will as the visitors booted the final five goals to decide the result.
Walker finished with four goals in a powerful display in his first game back from suspension.
Fremantle’s best performers came in the back half of the ground early in an indictment of their efforts during the first half.
Greg Broughton and Luke McPharlin lead from the front in the backline, but had little support around the stoppages outside of the industrious efforts of Matt de Boer.
The main downside for Adelaide came during the third quarter, with Bernie Vince lashing out at Zac Clarke inside the club’s defensive 50m arc to subsequently go into the book for striking.
Video replays appeared damning for Vince, who could potentially find himself spending several weeks on the sidelines.
Debutant Hayden Crozier was substituted into the game 24 minutes into the third term and immediately had an impact, taking a contested mark on the wing and earning a holding the ball decision.
Fremantle looked sharp early, but got little reward on the scoreboard.
Hayden Ballantyne selfishly sprayed the ball across the face for a behind instead of centring to three free teammates.
At the other end Adelaide nailed their early chances thanks to clever goals to Sloane and Ian Callinan.
The Dockers were playing on from marks at every opportunity and finally reaped gains from the subtle change in game plan.
David Mundy, Matthew Pavlich and Ballantyne all kicked goals, but the hosts still trailed by nine points at the first break after a late reply from Matt Wright.
Fremantle were under the pump when a goal line call went against them nine minutes into the second term.
Stephen Hill’s raking shot on goal appeared to have cleared a lunging Adelaide opponent for the full six points, but the video review umpire ruled the vision as inconclusive.
It reverted back to the goal umpire’s call as a touched ball.
Goals to Callinan, Sloane, Walker and Dangerfield quickly blew the margin out to 36 points to threaten an ugly result.
But two majors in the space of three minutes from Ryan Crowley, who was towelling up opposition midfielder Scott Thompson, at least kept them within striking distance.
Both sides traded goals in the third term as Fremantle fought tooth and nail to gain the upper hand.
Stephen Hill’s snap in the dying stages of the quarter narrowed the margin to nine points at the final break.
They threatened to snatch what had appeared an unlikely win when they hit the lead four minutes into the final term before Adelaide did what top-four sides do and closed out the game late.
|GOALS - ADELAIDE: T Walker 4; R Sloane, M Wright 3; I Callinan 2; J Petrenko, P Dangerfield, J Jenkins, J Porplyzia, G Johncock. FREMANTLE: M Pavlich 3; R Crowley, M Barlow, C Mayne 2; D Mundy, H Ballantyne, S Hill.|
INJURIES - FREMANTLE: J Anthony (knee), S Hill (AC joint).
REPORTS: B Vince (ADEL) for striking Z Clarke in the third quarter.
UMPIRES: D Margetts, S Stewart, T Pannell, J Dalgleish.
CROWD: 31,392 at Patersons Stadium.