Adelaide coach Matthew Nicks has hailed his team’s growth after they stunned 2021 grand finalists the Western Bulldogs in a one-point AFL thriller in Ballarat for one of the finest victories of his tenure.
Taylor Walker’s late goal proved the difference after the Crows fought through multiple Bulldogs surges and their own inaccuracy to prevail 8.15 (63) to 9.8 (62).
In claiming back-to-back wins for the first time since rounds three and four last season, having accounted for Richmond last week, Adelaide evened their win-loss ledger at 3-3 while condemning the Dogs to 2-4.
“It’d be up there,” Nicks said.
“The last couple of weeks have been really enjoyable, that feeling of pride in a young group that have now shown some consistency, and it’s over a couple of weeks, but against some really high quality opposition.
“To come and play the way we want to play two weeks in a row and show resilience like we did today, really, really pleasing.
“You enjoy watching a group be challenged and then step up.
“This is invaluable for our group, being able to perform in these moments.”
Billy Frampton (26 disposals, nine marks) marshalled the Crows’ defence with aplomb while Tom Doedee limited Marcus Bontempelli.
Ben Keays (33 disposals, eight clearances) was excellent while ruckman Reilly O’Brien bested Bulldogs 200-gamer Stefan Martin.
Midfielders Josh Dunkley (28 disposals), Tom Liberatore (33 disposals, 10 clearances) Bailey Smith and Jack Macrae led the charge for the Dogs.
Adelaide’s frantic pressure led to the first two goals, but the Bulldogs clawed to a seven-point lead at quarter time.
Laird could come under scrutiny after coming in late and high on Dunkley after the Bulldog marked late in the opening term.
The second quarter proved a dour affair, with Walker out-bodying Tim O’Brien for the only goal, with scores level at the main break.
Adelaide dominated the third quarter but Josh Schache cut the deficit to three points at the final change.
Walker slotted the first goal of the final term, and the 500th of his career, to put Adelaide in the box seat.
The Bulldogs regained the lead late but Josh Rachele levelled scores with a behind, then Ned McHenry put Adelaide in front with another.
Then when Caleb Daniel made an uncharacteristic error from the kick-out, Lachlan Gollant picked out Walker to give the Crows a seven-point lead.
Bontempelli goaled with seven seconds left but it proved too little, too late.
“They were very good, we felt like they strangled us, didn’t let us play with any fluency,” Bulldogs coach Luke Beveridge said.
“In the end, a point is gut wrenching but they deserved the win the way they played and obviously our guys are really disappointed.”