AFL: Preliminary Finals: Hawthorn v Adelaide-Hawks in a thriller

The MCG came alive tonight as Hawthorn produced a thrilling five point victory over the Adelaide Crows in their preliminary final, 13.19.97 to 14.8.92.  In front of a crowd of more than 69,000, and despite some momentary lapses, the Hawks fended off a determined Crows outfit hellbent on making their first grand final since 1998.

Adelaide started off with a flurry, but took a slim five point margin into half time.  Taylor Walker’s night began in the second quarter as he slotted home three goals.  The Hawks rued inaccurate kicking and squandered chances, the Crows dominant for the entire first half.

Hawthorn stepped it up a notch after half time, and put on a show.  Lance Franklin began to impose himself, while gun Crow Patrick Dangerfield, after a quiet first half, started to be a major game-changer for Adelaide.

The umpires bore the brunt of a wave of criticism on Twitter and at times the commentators.  The biggest decision came after Hawk ruckman David Hale went to ground, then centre half-back Ryan Schoenmakers shoved Crow Jason Porplyzia into the MCG turf, resulting in a reversed free-kick.

Hawthorn went into the last quarter 16 points up, and threatened to blow the margin out if not for inaccurate kicking.  Some beautiful coast to coast plays from Adelaide to set up important goals, one coming from captain Nathan Van Berlo late in the match.

Franklin was also involved in a wrestling-style tussle with Ben Rutten, and was paid the free kick, but missed.

The Hawks now have until next Saturday to prepare to face the Sydney Swans, who won their preliminary final against Collingwood.  The run of the Crows in the first half had questions rising about the possibility of an upset, but the Hawks screamed a changed team after half time, with Cyril Rioli bagging two goals and providing a huge hand to Franklin.

The Crows gave their fans everything to cheer for, making Hawthorn fight for the win up until the last moments.  The margin closed to five points with 16 seconds to go, but a Hawthorn clearance in the centre quelled any chance of an incredible upset.  Tall forward Kurt Tippett finished with 16 possessions and four goals, with Walker also grabbing four.

The Hawks are now in their first grand final since their premiership in 2008.  They will be hopeful that captain Luke Hodge, who pulled out just prior to the match due to illness, will be able to lead the side back out onto the MCG in a week’s time.  For the Crows, first year coach Brenton Sanderson should be extremely pleased at the effort of the team, only falling short at the very last hurdle.

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