Wasteful Dons defy Crows in thrilling finish

AFL Rd 6 -  Adelaide v Essendon
ADELAIDE, AUSTRALIA – APRIL 19: Taylor Walker of the Crows during warm ups of he round six AFL match between Adelaide Crows and Essendon Bombers at Adelaide Oval, on April 19, 2024, in Adelaide, Australia. (Photo by Mark Brake/Getty Images)

The blazing Bombers nearly kicked themselves out of a pulsating Friday night contest, but Zach Merrett-inspired Essendon hung on to claim a stunning win over efficient Adelaide.

Brad Scott’s men dominated inside-50s at Adelaide Oval, but had to come from behind to notch back-to-back wins for the first time this season.

Adelaide led by seven points when Izak Rankine snapped a superb goal in traffic with 12 minutes left to play, but Merrett and Nic Martin goaled to put the visitors in front.

The ball was bottled up in Adelaide’s forward line in the frantic final minutes, but the siren sounded with Crows players desperately appealing for a free after Sam Draper appeared to fall on the ball.

The win extended Essendon’s run of victories against Adelaide to seven and consigned Matthew Nicks’ side to a 1-5 record.

AFL Rd 6 - Adelaide v Essendon
Nik Cox is wrapped up by Jordan Dawson and Rory Laird. Picture: Sarah Reed/AFL Photos via Getty Images


Both sides were coming off good wins, but the Crows opened like the team that struggled to an 0-4 start to the season opposed to the red-hot Bombers.

Merrett torched the home side with 13 possessions in a first-quarter onslaught that didn’t translate to scoreboard dominance.

Adelaide struggled to move the ball in the face of some serious Essendon pressure, with the visitors going inside attacking 50 13 times to three only to largely spurn their scoring opportunities.

In contrast, the Crows made the most of their forward forays and were only two points down at the first break after Taylor Walker spied an empty goal square and launched a long bomb off one step from just inside the centre square that bounced through the middle.


Rankine had just two touches to halftime, but he nearly pulled off a sublime piece of trickery in the first quarter.

Tucked in tight on the boundary line the forward magician pulled off the AFL version of soccer’s nutmeg when he deftly handballed between Martin’s legs, ducked around him and scooped up the ball.

The silky-skilled manoeuvre didn’t stand, however, Rankine barely taking the ball out of bounds when he pulled the trigger on the handball.

AFL Rd 6 - Adelaide v Essendon
Taylor Walker fires up after a goal. Picture: Sarah Reed/AFL Photos via Getty Images


The lopsided inside 50 count continued to favour Essendon in the second quarter, the Bombers out to a 21-point lead in the second quarter and leading inside 50s 32-16 at halftime.

But Jordan Dawson booted two of three unanswered goals that energised the home side, with the Bombers not helping their own cause.

Dawson’s first resulted from a Draper 50m penalty after the big ruckman kicked the ball away, Chayce Jones latched onto a horror Jayden Laverde turnover and ran into an open goal, then Dawson danced around slow-to-react Sam Durham on the mark to bang through a superb long goal.


Adelaide led for the first time when Jake Soligo goaled in the twelfth minute of the third quarter and the resurgent Crows stormed to a 19-point lead, with Ned McHenry’s deft soccered goal making it seven majors in a row.

Immediately after his quick kick went through, McHenry and plenty of his teammates got right in former Crow Jake Kelly’s face.

It wasn’t the first time there was a bit of niggle in the hotly-contested affair, but the Bombers responded in fine style.

Harrison Jones, who put in another eye-catching display, added his second and gave one off to Kyle Langford, who kicked the final two goals of the third quarter to edge Essendon back in front by three points at the last change.