The Brisbane Lions have won the battle of the undefeated ladder leaders, claiming victory in the back-and-forth contest against Adelaide by three points to jump to the top of the table.
Played in prime time in front of a huge pro-Adelaide crowd, the match between the competition’s two undefeated sides coming into the contest didn’t fail to deliver.
12,000 fans showed up to see both teams come out aggressive, attacking through the corridor of the narrow Norwood Oval and moving the ball quickly.
First blood in the undefeated clash went to the Lions, who had the better of the opening term, when Kaitlyn Ashmore picked up cleanly and handballed to Emily Bates to turn and run towards the big sticks.
Soaking up the constant pressure from the Brisbane midfielders, Chelsea Randall was strong in defence, comfortably outplaying her direct opponent Tayla Harris and having an impact further up the ground.
Having waited out the early storm, Adelaide’s midfield group started finding plenty of the footy for themselves, with Randall, Ebony Marinoff, Deni Varnhagen and Georgia Bevan finding plenty of the footy.
Their chance to hit back came through Sarah Perkins’ elite ground game, dishing off to Erin Phillips whose snap found an unmarked Sally Riley in the goal square.
It was fitting that the sides were tied after one quarter, but both the Crows and Lions’ intentions of creating a solid lead were foiled by inaccurate kicking and strong defensive pressure.
The deadlock was broken by Perkins’ strong hands, reading the flight of the ball better than Leah Kaslar to mark and goal to the delight of the large crowd.
The Lions had their turn defending against some strong forward pressure, and the likes of Kate Lutkins and Kaslar did so ably to prevent Adelaide from extending the margin further than eight points at half-time.
Impressive halves from Erin Phillips and Angela Foley went a long way to giving the Crows their advantage, but it could’ve been much larger if it weren’t for Sabrina Frederick-Traub around the ground and Megan Hunt’s ball-winning ways.
A stage was set for the Brisbane speedster Kate McCarthy, who added another highlight to her personal reel with a running goal, cutting Adelaide’s lead back to under a goal.
It wasn’t long before Kate Lutkins was on the end of a long bomb forward, ducking around her opponent and dribbling home the go-ahead major.
Seeking an immediate response, the Crows were close to going back in front but Jessica Sedunary played on after a mark in front of goal.
Perkins made up for the error, forcing the Lions into a mistake that allowed her to convert her second of the game and regain the lead.
Brisbane did well to hold out Adelaide, but a mental error from Tayla Harris, who had been completely taken out of the game by her direct opponent in Randall, fell into the back of Abbey Holmes and gave away a brainless 50m penalty to make it a certainty.
To be expected, the Lions responded immediately through captain Emma Zielke, reducing their deficit to just two points on the stroke of three-quarter time.
McCarthy fired the opening shot of the final term, keeping cool under pressure and putting the Lions back in front.
Defence continued to be the highlight of the contest with the Lions defenders’ desperate attempts and multiple smothers preventing Adelaide from taking the lead back.
As the clock ticked down under three minutes, the Crows required something special, and it almost came from Phillips whose snap went close to
But McCarthy’s clutch goal proved to be the difference in a contest that was every bit as good as we thought it would be.
Sabrina Frederick-Traub continued her incredible form for the Lions, ably supported by Emily Bates and Megan Hunt, who battled in the midfield against an Adelaide unit that had brushed aside everything in its path.
What’s most impressive is that most of Brisbane’s stars in Tayla Harris, Emma Zielke, Kaitlyn Ashmore and Jessica Wuetschner were well held, yet they manage to claim the four points anyway.
Erin Phillips again led the disposals for Adelaide and Chelsea Randall was incredible in a defensive role, but it’s Ebony Marinoff’s 16 disposals and unbelievable 14 tackles that stood out.
The loss isn’t catastrophic for the Crows, but they will need to win one of their two remaining matches comfortably to lock in a Grand Final spot.
It would take a serious drop off from Brisbane to see them miss out on the Grand Final from this stage, and the Lions have to be flag favourites at this point in time.
Adelaide: 1.0, 2.3, 4.4, 4.6 (30)
Brisbane: 1.0, 1.1, 4.2, 5.3 (33)
Adelaide: Sarah Perkins 2, Sally Riley, Abbey Holmes
Brisbane: Kate McCarthy 2, Emily Bates, Kate Lutkins, Emma Zielke
Adelaide: Erin Phillips (22), Chelsea Randall (17), Ebony Marinoff (16)
Brisbane: Emily Bates (17), Sabrina Frederick-Traub (15), Megan Hunt (15)