Carlton has gained a measure of revenge for last year’s AFLW grand final loss to Adelaide, overcoming the Crows by eight points at Richmond Oval.
Last March the Blues were left shattered after being beaten by 45 points to the rampant Crows in front of a huge crowd of 53,034 at Adelaide Oval.
Adelaide v Carlton AFLW:
- Adel: 4.4 (28) Goals: R Metcalfe, E Jones, A Considine, A Hatchard
- Carl 5.6 (36) Goals: T Harris 2, N Stevens, M Prespakis, D Vescio
- Adel – A Hatchard 27, E Marinoff 20, E Phillips 13
- Carl – M Prespakis 20, C Wilson 19, G Egan 18, N Plane 18
That game was the last appearance by Crows’ star Erin Phillips, who ruptured her ACL in the third quarter of the decider.
After rehabilitation, Phillips returned to competitive football in Sunday’s round-four clash between the two sides.
While everyone was watching eagerly to see how she went, the key to the game was a Carlton side that executed its game plan better for longer.
The Adelaide team was determined to use the corridor and play direct football, but the Blues — directed by coach Daniel Harford — went in with a clear focus on moving the ball wide and using the wings.
Carlton had a much wider spread of possession, with a variety of players picking up plenty of touches.
Once again, Maddie Prespakis starred with 20 disposals, four marks and a goal. But there were contributors all around the ground.
In contrast, the Crows were led by rover Anne Hatchard with 27 possessions, and the experience of Ebony Marinoff in the middle with 20 disposals.
The main box ticked by Phillips was a safe return to action.
She got through the four quarters without any sign of discomfort or being off the pace.
The star forward was not a dominant force in the first half, but she visibly raised her level in the latter stages, providing an outlet off half-back and showing her vision and skills to set up the play.
Another player coming back from long-term injury was ruck Rhiannon Metcalfe, who competed well and offered Adelaide an option up forward, kicking a first-quarter goal.
Although the Crows were on the back foot possession-wise, the defending champions showed their mettle by taking their limited chances to lead by five points at half-time.
They kicked the first three goals of the game, before Carlton came back into contention.
The Blues kicked two goals to one in the third term, and then in the final quarter they earned what proved the winning break.
The ball went over the back inside Carlton’s attacking 50, and Darcy Vescio ran on to it, keeping her balance to throw it on her boot and kick truly under pressure from near the goal line.
Harris has a big day for Blues
The Carlton defence stood up, with a string of intercept marks in key moments leading to rebound off half-back from Charlotte Wilson and Vaomua Laloifi.
But it was a team performance. When the Crows put real pressure on the Blues in the final term, it was the unlikely pair of Vescio and Tayla Harris who parked themselves in defensive 50 to help out and repel Adelaide attacks.
Harris had come in for serious criticism over her performance against Collingwood, when she was kept to just one goal by Pies defender Stacey Livingstone.
Whether or not the Carlton forward was using the criticism as motivation, she had a strong game against the Crows.
Harris played a typically physical game, using her body to pressure Crows players with the ball, and she was a key part of the Blues’ game plan.
One perfect example came in the second quarter, where the Blues took the ball near the sideline on the grandstand wing, and Maddie Prespakis found Nicola Stevens.
Stevens evaded a tackle, then wheeled around and used her long kicking to go deep inside 50 — Harris positioned herself well to beat defender Sarah Allen to the ball. She marked and converted.
Harris ended up with seven marks, 12 kicks and 2.3 in a solid all-round performance.
Finals race still tight in both conferences
Despite the result, the Crows are still in the hunt for a finals spot from Conference A.
With the Brisbane Lions and GWS still to play, Adelaide lies in fourth spot on percentage behind the Giants.
The Lions’ scoring, combined with their draw in the Q-Clash against Gold Coast last week, gives the Queenslanders an edge on points and percentage, while they still trail the Kangaroos.
With three teams to advance to the finals, however, the Crows’ clash with the Kangaroos next week takes on added significance for the title holders.
Carlton’s win gives them a game break over fourth-placed Collingwood in the battle for finals spots in Conference B.
The Blues are third on percentage, with Melbourne second and Fremantle leading.
Next week Collingwood takes on the Western Bulldogs, while Melbourne faces expansion team West Coast, and the Blues will also play league newcomers in St Kilda.
Source: ABC Grandstand Sport