THE IRVINE REPORT

Adelaide continued their late-season form with a win over Carlton that could’ve ballooned out a lot more. Blues skipper Patrick Cripps wasn’t as influential as we’ve come to expect as the Crows ran for each other and converted well throughout the game, led by their experienced midfield and young guns, despite a four-goal second-half effort from Blue Harry McKay that gave the Blues a sniff.

 

WHERE WAS THE GAME WON?

The Crows outside run and control of their possessions with good overlap and teamwork won them this game against the Blues, particularly in that first quarter. To half time, Adelaide looked like a team that wanted the footy more, with 26 hard ball gets to just nine for Carlton. Adelaide switched to good fortune and caught the Blues out on many an occasion.

The constant winning of the football and continued inside 50s gave the Crows all kinds of chances and ultimately, set up a 44-point lead at the main break.

Carlton came out firing after the break, keeping the Crows goalless in the third term but further defensive efforts and transition by the Crows confirmed the result. Adelaide could’ve punished the Blues more, missing a few chances, but they were also effective at getting goal side.

 

WHO WERE THE FIVE MOST IMPRESSIVE PLAYERS?

Lachlan Sholl, in just his seventh game at the top leve,l looked a class above as he collected the footy all over Metricon Stadium. Sholl had averaged 10.3 possessions a game and went past that mark in the first quarter alone, finishing the first stanza with 11 first possessions. He added a goal and his 399 metres gained was the highest single quarter meterage of a player this season.

Finishing with 24 disposals for the match, Sholl remained within the contest, and was never truly down in his output, kicking a second goal in the final term. He penetrated the ball inside 50 numerous times, to the advantage of the Crows forwards, and punished the Blues on their turnovers – Lachie Plowman was responsible for the success of Sholl in front of goal, running past the ball that allowed Sholl to slot his first goal, as well as executing another kick-in turnover that saw Sholl mark between two Blues to convert again.

Tom Lynch was fit and firing, and Adelaide look a good team when he is. Even though his first half was much better than his second half output, Lynch’s turn on the wing and half-forward areas were a key component of Adelaide’s repeated entries inside 50. He had nine first quarter disposals and his three inside 50s in that time resulted in a goal. Lynch later got on the end of a long-range bomb from beyond 50m himself in the second quarter – taking advantage of a dropped Sam Walsh mark in the centre square. The Crows were able to gain control and get it outside to Lynch who banged one home from distance.

In what’s to be his last game of his career, Bryce Gibbs made sure it was memorable with his output influencing Adelaide’s victory. Playing against the team that took him at pick 1 in 2006, Gibbs showcased how much of a great footballer he is, and should have been for the Crows. Drifting off half back for most of the day, Gibbs finished with 27 touches and played a role as an interceptor with seven intercept possessions, helping him to a multitude of rebounds out of the defensive end, and in turn, the same number of score involvements. It was a nice touch from Rory Sloane who was lined up to kick for goal with a minute left of the total game time to see Gibbs inboard, so he passed to the retiree and gave him one last chance to kick one. Alas, it wasn’t to be, the kick drifting to the side.

Rory Laird is enjoying his time in the middle of the ground lately and another strong 27-disposal performance from him was immense. Despite a slow start of just four handballs in the first term, Laird collected 18 touches over the next two to find his way into the game. One turnover from Laird tells you how well he uses the ball and while he would drift up the ground in previous seasons whilst playing down back, his run and speed in the middle, and accurate kicking is a real danger when he gets a clear look inside 50.

Harry McKay found his groove in the second half, kicking four of the Blues seven goals after half time – a career-high tally. Early in the game, McKay didn’t have much going for him – a couple of contested marks weren’t paid after being touched or having a free kick against given against the Blues. A third chance saw and a kick for goal touched on the line. McKay remained strong to keep the Blues in it late in the match – he had five contested marks overall and outmuscled his opponents in crucial one-on-one contests deep.

 

WHAT WAS THE MOST IMPORTANT HEAD-TO-HEAD MATCH-UP?

Patrick Cripps v Anyone of his opponents (Rory Sloane, Brodie Smith, Jake Kelly, Brad Crouch, Ben Keays)

A collective effort from Adelaide resulted in seeing Patrick Cripps well-held to his 16 disposals – his equal second-lowest of the season and the fourth game in a row under 20 possessions for the Carlton midfielder. The last time that happened was in his first four games of AFL footy.

Cripps had two first-quarter touches and slowly shook off the attention he was getting in the middle stages of the match. David Teague tried Cripps forward but kicks to packs from the Blues didn’t allow Cripps the best run at the ball.

Cripps did kick a great captain’s goal in the third term, redeeming himself after missing a set shot moments earlier. A loose ball on the wing saw the ball bobbling about players from both teams and although Cripps was stripped of the ball a couple of times in the contest, he refused to give up. Gathering the ball once more, Cripps cradled the ball around his back while spinning out of trouble, linking up a one-two with a teammate, selling some candy and then launching from 50m.

Cripps is still a contested ball winner and was strong in the clinches again today. Although his tackling was also good, Carlton really needed him to fire a bit more to get closer earlier in the game.

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WHO SHOULD HAVE STAYED HOME?

Mitch McGovern is just not working out at Carlton. A former Crows player, McGovern had eight touches for the game, seven of them coming in the second half when he found a bit of life in his game. He failed to register a single stat for the entire second quarter and some shaky moments, especially kicks forward that dribbled along the ground were costly as the Adelaide defenders  pounced.

While he set up a goal in the last, and kicked one himself, after Harry McKay saw the mismatch between McGovern and Lachlan Sholl, there wasn’t much else to McGovern’s game that showed too much grunt.

For the Crows, two tall forwards in Billy Frampton and Darcy Fogarty failed to influence the game too much. The two linked up for the first goal of the afternoon where Fogarty won a free kick and kicked to the top of the goal square for a leaping Frampton but even that goal could’ve been avoided had Carlton been on the ball with getting numbers back. Frampton had just two possessions after a four-possession first quarter, unable to handle the defensive prowess of Jacob Weitering

 

WHAT COULD HAVE BEEN DONE DIFFERENTLY?

For the Blues, they needed to respond quicker to Adelaide’s desire to move the ball on quickly, and through the middle. Carlton were too slow in getting back to set up their defensive, and that allowed for mismatches and numbers to be with the Crows. This was an important factor in their first-half dominance.

Even up the ground when the Blues had possession, they held themselves up, giving the Crows a chance to get numbers behind the footy. It looked as though they needed to match the tempo of their opponents. With the Blues taking their time, their delivery into their forward half was shaky and not to their advantage With a more methodical approach, Carlton should have been able to hit targets and generate more from their slow builds.

The Blues really struggled to spot a target on their own from kick-ins and it doesn’t seem the Blues have a designated kick-in player, with Lachie Plowman, Kade Simpson and Liam Jones sharing duties over the course of the game. Plowman’s blunder at a kick-in, picking out out Lachlan Sholl in between two Blues, should have been costly, but Sholl missed the resultant shot.

The Blues could’ve been punished a lot more too, with an Elliot Himmelberg dribble towards goal missing the mark after an errant Liam Jones handball, but whilst they got out of jail on that one, it re-affirms their poor disposal and decision-making in the back half, particularly without Sam Docherty.

Carlton were better in the second half, moving quickly on the outside, and it helped bring the margin back, but it was too little, too late.

 

WHERE DOES THIS GAME SIT IN TERMS OF BEST/WORST FOR THE SEASON?

It was certainly entertaining to watch to see the resurgence of the Adelaide Football Club to go on and win their third game in a row. The dominance from the Crows at this point is a polar opposite of their earlier season form and the constant running and delivery inside 50 was thrilling to watch. As was the cohesion between the players who ran for each other and covered well for their teammates.

The Blues pegged the lead back by a fair margin but not enough and they were unable to pull something special out of their sleeve as they have other times this season. However, a willingness to not give up after half time receives plaudits.

 

WHERE TO NEXT FOR THE BLUES?

Out of the finals race now, the Blues finish the season at the Gabba against the home tenants, Brisbane. Depending on which Brisbane turns up, Carlton could be in with a chance, although they’ll need to actually play more than a half to have a chance against the Lions. Beyond that, (or even prior too) it’ll be good for some of the Blues to get a rest. The likes of Cripps and Walsh have been carrying the team, and they’ve unearthed some beauties such as Tom De Koning in the ruck who looks like he can carry the ruck duties in the wake of Matthew Kruezer’s retirement.

 

WHERE TO NEXT FOR THE CROWS?

It would have been nice for the Crows to maintain their scoring rate in the second half to continue a the chance of jumping from the bottom of the ladder. However, a meeting with Richmond is never easy and it is hard to see them taking it up to a team like the Tigers. We all know what happened in the last week of September three years ago…

Too soon?

In reality, Adelaide are playing like a team with plenty of belief – they just needed to adjust to a game plan under Matthew Nicks. It’s taken some time but another pre-season will see the Crows rise once again – this team is never down for too long.

 

IS THERE CONCERN WITH CARLTON’S ABILITY TO HIT A TARGET INSIDE 50?

There’s certainly a concern for sure, with Harry McKay and Levi Casboult the two main marking targets up forward. Casboult played up the ground a bit, leaving McKay alone to contend deep.

Look, it worked but there wasn’t much truly great delivery inside 50, nor leading targets as Carlton played the long-ball in continually. They’re just lucky that McKay is such a good target.

Adelaide had 58 intercept possessions and usually had a spare back as the sixth Carlton forward went down the ground to attend the contest to try and gain a clearance. With Charlie Curnow’s absence keenly felt this season, the Blues need work all their forwards into the game a bit more with Betts, McGovern and Newnes quiet in stages today.

 

WAS THAT THE PERFECT SEND-OFF FOR BRYCE GIBBS?

It’d be hard to find a better one, perhaps only with a little more accuracy on the last kick of his career.

It was a real touch of class by both teams after the game, with two former teammates chairing him off the ground amid a guard of honour.

This season there has been a bit of commentary about players being too friendly and not combative enough, but there is a time and place for general camaraderie and respect and this was evident in the way both the Crows and Blues sent off Gibbs.

It also helped that he played his best game since his first season in Adelaide, as well. I reckon Matthew Nicks did well in setting Gibbs up to play as the rebounding half back – the perfect role to get plenty of the footy in his swansong.

 

CAN THE CROWS DO THE UNLIKELY AND GIVE NORTH MELBOURNE THE WOODEN SPOON?

Adelaide have plenty of belief. So much so that you might be just a little afraid of what they could conjure if you’re a Richmond fan headed into the final round of the season. It’s entirely possible that the Crows win and avoid their first ever wooden spoon.

They’ll know the equation on early, too, as the Kangas play on Thursday night against West Coast. For a side that was 0-13 to start the year, the Crows sudden rise has been incredibly unexpected, although it’s not surprising if you saw results prior to their Round 14 game against Hawthorn – their form was building and the belief was growing.

The Crows won’t be down for long and have a good core, some exciting tall options up forward, and the way they’re trying players in different positions is working.

Things will only improve from here.