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Crows respond to week from hell, push Power to brink in Showdown thriller

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Adelaide, meanwhile, were installed by the bookmakers as the biggest underdogs in Showdown history, having lost five of their past six games and failing to get past five goals in their past three Showdown letdowns.

The Crows, however, held Port to a solitary goal at half-time and had their measure at the contest for the first 90 minutes.

But when Brodie Smith and Will Hamill exited with nasty head knocks either side of three-quarter-time, it was always going to be a difficult task for the Crows to keep top-four bound Port at bay, particularly with that titanic final quarter lasting 38:48.

Nick Murray and Will Hamill of the Crows collide during the clash with the Power.

Nick Murray and Will Hamill of the Crows collide during the clash with the Power.Credit:AFL Photos

“It was challenging in the end with Brodie going off with quite a substantial cut to his head,” Nicks said.

“And to have Will Hamill collide like he did and lose him as well, it shuffles things around.

“But in the last quarter the game was still on even terms and I thought the guys stood up and fought it out.

“We started the season with a certain DNA and we found that today.”

Nicks confirmed Walker did not attend the Showdown.

“I’m in constant contact with Taylor and that will continue moving forward,” Nicks said.

“He wasn’t at the game tonight.”

The Crows’ coalface pressure was elite, with their well thought-out match-ups – Ben Keays on Travis Boak, Jordon Butts on Charlie Dixon and Paul Seedsman on Karl Amon – working in their favour.

Rory Laird was prolific as always, Harry Schoenberg came alive in the second term and Tom Lynch was providing the skilful link that has been absent in Adelaide’s play for long patches this season.

Ned McHenry walked into back-to-back goals to close the second term – the second one a walk-in with no Power opponent within 25 metres of him – to extend Adelaide’s buffer to 19 points at half-time.

The Power opened the third with a more free-wheeling style – clearly to their liking – but their finishing was errant.

Conversely, Keays’ bomb from outside 50m and David Mackay’s left-footed bender from the north-west pocket against the flow kept Port at bay.

Adelaide were still up by 10 points when Riley Thilthorpe, hugging the scoreboard pocket, struck the post after the three-quarter-time siren but they were down a soldier.

Ageless Boak, on his 33rd birthday, shook off the attention of Keays, Ollie Wines outduelled Crows captain Rory Sloane throughout and Aliir Aliir was unstoppable in the air.

Aliir Aliir marks for Port Adelaide in a powerful display.

Aliir Aliir marks for Port Adelaide in a powerful display.Credit:Getty Images

Port pinched their first lead since the opening stanza when Sam Powell-Pepper snapped truly from a first-rate handball from five-time Showdown medallist Robbie Gray – playing his first game since round 14 after a left knee injury.

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Dixon finally got free of Butts and goaled to push the Power’s lead to nine points before Lynch trimmed the difference to less than a kick.

Adelaide had one last crack inside the final minute and it was slightly unfortunate this epic finished with a contentious, game-saving dropped mark awarded to Miles Bergman on the wing.

Port coach Ken Hinkley paid tribute to Showdown medallist Aliir, who crafted the most majestic performance of his banner 2021 campaign.

The athletic defender had 16 intercepts among his 21 possessions to go with five contested marks, while leaving a trio of outclassed opponents – Thilthorpe, Darcy Fogarty and Elliott Himmelberg – in his wake.

“In the scheme of our season, Aliir hasn’t played bigger than he played tonight,” Hinkley said.

“Sometimes at the end of a Showdown you’re not sure who’s going to win the medal, but there was absolutely no doubt that he was going to win the medal at the end of the game, even if we hadn’t been in front.

“He was such an influential player as far as a small margin result goes.

“He rebounded enough on his own almost to keep us going.

“His season has been remarkable and he’s fitted into our club really well.”

BEST
Port Adelaide: Aliir, Wines, Drew, Houston, Boak, Burton.
Adelaide: Schoenberg, Laird, Seedsman, Doedee, Jones, Keays.

VOTES
Aliir Aliir (Port Adelaide) 8
Ollie Wines (Port Adelaide) 7
Harry Schoenberg (Adelaide) 7
Rory Laird (Adelaide) 7
Paul Seedsman (Adelaide) 7

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