ADELAIDE has joined Fremantle atop the AFLW ladder and dealt Melbourne its first loss of the season, holding the Demons goalless for three quarters and withstanding a late rally to win by 14 points on Saturday.
In a heavyweight battle between the top-four teams, Adelaide ambushed the Demons early with a relentless pressure game that set up the 4.11 (35) to 3.3 (21) win at Norwood Oval.
The 2021 Grand Finalists held their opponents to their lowest score of the season and only their own inaccuracy, booting 2.9 across the second and third quarters, stopped the final margin from being significantly more.
Melbourne came to life in the final quarter, kicking two early goals and a third after the final siren, but never looked like catching the Crows after the ferocious opening.
Champion forward Erin Phillips was the star, lifting against a fellow flag contender to boot three goals from snaps in a supremely skilful performance, also finishing with 17 disposals and six tackles.
It was the usual suspects in the midfield, with gun pair Ebony Marinoff (26 disposals) and Anne Hatchard (29) controlling the contested ball and giving the Crows a massive advantage in forward entries (44-21).
CROWS v DEMONS Full match coverage and stats
Sarah Allen and Marijana Rajcic led an almost impenetrable backline that kept the Dees to their lowest score across the opening three quarters since round seven, 2019.
The Demons averaged 54 points across the opening three rounds but had their slick ball-movement removed by the Crows, who laid a season high 69 tackles.
The win was soured by a suspected hamstring injury to captain Chelsea Randall in her return from the same issue.
Eliza McNamara led the Demons' final quarter surge and finished with 22 disposals, while captain Daisy Pearce booted two of the team's three goals.
Randall's dramatic return
Adelaide captain Chelsea Randall was a significant inclusion for the Crows in a blockbuster clash, returning from a hamstring injury she suffered in round two and running straight to star opponent Tayla Harris at the opening bounce. She led her team's physical approach early, but the important Crow's game was short-lived, grabbing at her hamstring early in the second quarter having played through some discomfort. Randall didn’t return in the second quarter before being tested at the main break and calling it a day.
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All three of Phillips' goals deserve highlighting, having come from half chances that ultimately proved the difference on the scoreboard. Her first came two minutes into the game with the perfect front and centre crumb, taking the ball off hands crisply and snapping on her right foot. Minutes later and after more relentless forward pressure from the Crows, she kicked across her body off the ground on a tight angle to squeeze through her second. Finally, in the opening minutes of the third term, Phillips produced what was arguably her best goal for the day, snapping off one step from 45m out and bouncing the ball through to leave her team 22 points clear and setting what proved too big a task for the Demons.
Work in progress
While Melbourne's opening performances had them nestled nicely with the leading contenders, an inability to keep their structure and use their skills under pressure was exposed by the Crows. It's an issue they will also confront when they take on ladder leader Fremantle in round nine and if they meet the Crows or Dockers again in finals. Crows coach Matthew Clarke conceded the Demons would cut through his team if they allowed them to use the ball, so they simply didn't for three quarters, laying 19 tackles in the first term and maintaining that pressure for the majority of the match.
"The pressure through the first three quarters was outstanding, and it was pretty solid in the last, we just had a couple of lapses there for four or five minutes. Against good teams, you're not going to have it all your own way, so we’re really happy with the result." – Adelaide coach Matthew Clarke
"The majority of the game was on Adelaide's terms, they were far too good for us. The positive for us, at least we challenged them in the last quarter and won a bit of our own ball. But for three quarters Adelaide were winning clearance, contest, and able to put the pressure on us in our defensive half. They were too good and it was a good lesson for us today." – Melbourne coach Mick Stinear
Both teams now have an eight-day break, with Adelaide travelling to Ikon Park to take on Carlton next Sunday, while the Demons return home to face Gold Coast at Casey Fields on the same day.
ADELAIDE 2.1 2.5 4.10 4.11 (35)
MELBOURNE 0.1 0.2 0.2 3.3 (21)
Adelaide: Phillips 3, Martin
Melbourne: D Pearce 2, Harris
Adelaide: Phillips, Marinoff, S Allen, Rajcic, Hatchard, Jones
Melbourne: McNamara, Hanks, Goldrick, Lampard, D Pearce
Adelaide: Randall (leg)
Melbourne: L Pearce (ankle)
Crowd: TBC at Norwood Oval
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