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Adelaide Crows march on as St Kilda Saints miss the beat

5.6       8.9       11.11       16.15     (111)

1.1      2.4       3.6       7.12     (54)
GOALS - Adelaide: 
Lynch, Jenkins, Walker 3, Betts 2, Otten, Smith Milera, Beech, Sloane. 
St Kilda: Bruce 4, McCartin, Billings, Gilbert.
BEST - Adelaide: Jacobs, Laird, M. Crouch, Douglas, Smith, Lynch. 
St Kilda: Ross, Bruce, Geary, Roberton, Newnes, Webster.
UMPIRES  B. Rosebury, B. Hosking, J. Schmitt.
CROWD  46,082 at Adelaide Oval.
Adelaide's comfortable win on their home turf on Friday still won't answer their harshest critics, but St Kilda's loss tells us they're not the genuine finals contender most believed they were.
The Saints were awful. They had only three goals to three-quarter time – all from Josh Bruce – and failed badly to have an impact when they had scoring opportunities in a wayward third term, kicking 1.6.
This had the promise of a great contest given the need for both teams to respond to crucial losses, and especially following the damning assessment of the Crows' toughness, but the Saints offered little resistance.
Yet despite the crushing win, Adelaide, celebrating their first premiership when they defeated St Kilda 20 years ago, were far from celebrating this weekend – and were far from their best. They still have a long way to go, and it seems the Saints are on a long journey.
In four rounds, St Kilda have lost to Sydney by 50 points, to the Western Bulldogs by 40 and after, a bye, crushed by Adelaide – opponents considered a good measuring stick as to where they are at in their revival.
The Saints lacked defensive pressure and quality options inside-50. For most part they were prevented from playing their style of play – high pressure and fast pace. It was in the vein of how the Crows succumbed to the brilliance and tenacity of Geelong last round. The expected response from Adelaide was there on the scoreboard, albeit a series of missed opportunities, and it was a hard, workman-like performance. But while encouraging,  it was far from a redeeming performance in terms of aggression and capitalising on their dominant inside-50 entries.
Rory Sloane still got shoved around the packs by Koby Stevens, again without a lot of protection from his teammates, and the contested marks and possessions, plus tackles didn't return enough goals. The Crows dominated the inside-50 entries, especially up to half-time, 36-17. When the Saints went forward, the ball was sent back too easily.
The Crows were looking for a huge turnaround in midfield supremacy, and while Richard Douglas and the consistently good Crouch brothers did very well, the key to setting up this victory from the opening quarter was their resilient defence.
The Crows were certainly given the best chance with a stunning performance by Sam Jacobs in ruck. He tapped well, gathered hard-earned kicks and overall was a tower of strength.
Jake Lever was again superb, Rory Laird was the tenacious team man like he is most weeks, and the value of Jake Kelly needs to be recognised more often. Daniel Talia wasn't prominent, but his work rate in restricting Paddy McCartin was a key reason for the Saints' scoring ineptness.
The work of Tom Lynch and Rory Atkins was a significant part of those Adelaide entries, and Wayne Milera and Hugh Greenwood produced quality moments.
The leadership and form of Taylor Walker has also been well-scrutinised, and while he didn't dominate the scoreboard, his workrate could not be questioned. He could have received a few free kicks which would have made a huge difference on his report card, but overall he recorded a good pass backed up by quality team play.
It may seem harsh being critical of a winning team, but the frenetic run and fierce tackling that led to a goal frenzy in most of their early matches this year still wasn't quite there. The bye next week could not have come around sooner.
The approach to this game by the Saints was OK, but they too lacked their early-season ferocity. Seb Ross continued his excellent form, and the return of Josh Bruce faded after kicking their only three goals up to three-quarter time. His strong marking was valuable.
There were times when St Kilda seemed too focused on containing the influence of Sloane rather than just making their own play. Adelaide were more prepared to take the game on, and were rewarded.
Not the Crows' best win, but the lads from that 1997 premiership side know only too well you take what you can get.

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