Crowley s mad moment costs Dockers
Crowley's mad moment costs Dockers

Moments of madness are what Fremantle tagger Ryan Crowley has been giving his star-studded list of opponents in brilliant fashion all season.

And he did it again against Adelaide's Brownlow Medal favourite Scott Thompson at AAMI Stadium all Saturday afternoon.

But, cruelly, Crowley's relentless negating was spoiled by one mad moment of his own, which broke the game open for the Crows.

Trailing by 22 points at three-quarter time but still well in the match, Fremantle manufactured the first goal of the final term through Clancee Pearce.

A Stephen Hill behind cut the margin to just 15 points when Crowley stupidly thrust a knee into Bernie Vince as he lay on the ground on the wing. The 50m penalty put Vince in range and he kicked truly to seal a 17.17 (119) 14.7 (91) win.

Fremantle coach Ross Lyon later lamented four 50m decisions in the game which cost his team 1.3. But it was the one goal which really drove in the dagger.

Thompson's 16 possessions were the ball magnet's lowest since 13 against Melbourne in round seven last year. To Crowley's credit, it forced coach Brenton Sanderson to push his midfield gun forward, where he was also kept quiet.

The Docker's impact was obvious as he walked from the ground at quarter time, chatting with umpire Dean Margetts, as Crows forward Taylor Walker bee-lined in for a sledge before Vince targeted him with a bump as the pair headed to their huddles.

Some critics asked whether Crowley, after shutting down Thompson, should have been sent to Patrick Dangerfield, the boy wonder from Geelong who is fast on his way to becoming the new king of Adelaide.

The real question was whether Crowley would have had the running power and strength to match him.

Dangerfield's star power is building by the game and it was his two-punch heroics in the third term which did much of the damage.

First, the 22-year-old had the brash temerity to line up for a set shot from 60m before thumping it off his power-packed right boot through the middle of the goals, half-post high.

Then, after ruckman Josh Jenkins had shanked a kick from the middle of the ground out to the wing, Dangerfield pounced and danced a track through and past Crowley, Jonathon Griffin, Hayden Ballantyne and Matt de Boer for a goal-of-the-year nomination from about the same distance.

They were two dynamic moments in a game of many from the young star which had Mark Ricciuto, whose famous No.32 guernsey he has slotted into seamlessly, claiming he could be "better than Chris Judd".

Sanderson was not shy after the match on claiming either Dangerfield or Thompson would have strong claims on winning this year's Brownlow, such has been their consistent influence this season on Adelaide's rise up the ladder.

The coach also said the win, which moved the Crows closer to an important top-two finish, had been satisfying because it had come against a Fremantle team desperate and hungry to keep its finals hopes alive.

Several aspects of the match stood out in the negative for the Dockers, not least missing Luke McPharlin because of suspension and Nat Fyfe to an ankle injury because of a freak accident in his bedroom just hours before the match.

The Crows had done plenty of homework on captain Matthew Pavlich. While Daniel Talia did outstanding work on the in-form forward, the help he got from Sam Shaw and aerially from several others was tantamount to denying the visitors of their best scoring option.

When Chris Mayne was substituted just after half-time because of a heavy knock, the intensity on mobbing Pavlich increased and not enough of the other Fremantle forwards offered a convincing hand of support, although, Michael Walters was serviceable in his small forward role.

Fremantle had been wary of Adelaide's midfield depth and so it came to pass, particularly with their rotations hampered by injury.

David Mundy, de Boer, Michael Barlow were characteristically consistent and hard at it, but Lyon said it right when he claimed "weight of numbers" took its toll.

Dangerfield led a brutal battalion which was well represented by Matthew Wright, Vince, Richard Douglas, Rory Sloane, Nathan van Berlo and David Mackay as Adelaide put on a second-half clearance clinic.

The Dockers had 28 inside 50s to just 18 in the first half, but the Crows were able to score 7.8 (50) from those entries and hold a four-point advantage at half time.

At that point, Fremantle were only narrowly shaded 16-18 in the clearance battle and importantly, held a 74-68 edge in winning the contested ball.

By game's end, Adelaide had forged ahead 44-25 in winning the clearance war and turned around the contested possession count 145-129. They were significant statistics in understanding the final 28-point margin.

Taylor Walker also deserved credit for his role in the win as the dominant key forward on the ground, while Sam Jacobs just edged a tireless Griffin in the ruck duel.

Dangerfield said the Crows midfield took pride in the way it was able to spread the load when Crowley, who Sanderson described as the AFL's "toughest checker", was blanketing Thompson.

Earlier in the week, Dangerfield claimed he had no doubt the Crows could win the premiership and he was happy to continue that theme after the match.

The West Australian

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