A FAST-PACED, attacking match defied pre-season standards as Adelaide held off a frantic finish from Carlton, securing a three point win at AAMI Stadium on Friday night; 4.11.7 (109) to 2.13.10 (106).
The match looked over at three-quarter-time with Adelaide leading by 30 points, but the Crows were kept scoreless in the last as the Blues stormed home with four goals only to beaten by the clock.
Blues coach Mick Malthouse said turnovers in defence proved costly.
"We really did make a lot of basic errors in our back half, both backline players and our mids that got down there," he said.
"The ball we gave up in the forward line they scored from, the ball we got in the forward line we didn't necessarily score from.
"It's just another extension of being better under pressure."
Taylor Walker was sensational for the home team, proving that his mojo is far from lost.
The bulked-up forward took seven marks, had 16 possessions and kicked five goals (including two super goals) on his way to a stunning return to form less than a week after he was kept goalless by Geelong's Harry Taylor.
While it was poor defending that allowed Walker to slot his second nine-pointer, his first was straight out of a Wayne Carey highlights reel as he wheeled around off the mark and nailed it from 55 meters.
Adelaide coach Brenton Sanderson looked on in awe of Walker's performance.
"'Tex' was brilliant," Sanderson said post match.
"A week's a long time in footy, I know that's the famous saying, but he bounced back tonight, he played well. His energy was up, he's invaluable to our success going forward."
The early signs were good for Adelaide as they cleared the ball with ease.
Star midfielders Scott Thompson and Patrick Dangerfield both racked up quality possessions leading to scoreboard ascendancy, and Josh Jenkins' second goal saw his side skip away to an early lead.
Jenkins grabs his chance
But when Dennis Armfield turned on the jets and ran down reigning AFL Grand Final sprint champion Dangerfield not once but twice, and then sold some candy to boot his first the Blue's had reduced the margin to two goals at the end of the opening term.
A knee injury saw pint-sized Crow Ian Callinan subbed out for Graham Johncock at quarter time.
Eddie Betts had been kept quiet by young defender Luke Brown, but he made something out of nothing to set Kane Lucas up for his third major and when Brock McLean hammered home a super goal from the resulting centre bounce Adelaide's lead was just two points.
It started to rain nine-pointers as the main change approached with Walker, Sam Jacobs and Carlton superstar Marc Murphy all nailing long bombs.
As always Scott Thompson was in the thick of things with 17 first-half possessions and Brent Reilly was superb across half-back with 12 touches at 100 per cent efficiency.
When Crows skipper Nathan van Berlo and the highly touted Brad Crouch goaled in the third term Adelaide threatened to take the match away, and when Bernie Vince and Walker added super goals the margin was a daunting 30 points at the final break.
But with a Grand Final berth on the line the Blues hit back in the last quarter, dominating possession.
Goals to skipper Andrew Carrazzo and Chris Yarran brought the visitors to within three points and they looked like pinching a thriller until Matthew Jaench ran down Jeff Garlett, giving the Crows vital possession and sealing the win.
Sanderson admitted his side ran out of legs late in the final term, throwing a thinly-veiled jab at the AFL's rotation cap.
"It was another hot day here in Adelaide and the interchange cap, the players were spent," he said."Hopefully the AFL have got their data now about three on the bench and the interchange cap, thet'll be good for them tonight to have a look at that last quarter.
"Carlton were running really well, we weren't running well, so it'd be nice to get back to 160 rotations again in two week's time instead of 80."
Adelaide could only manage 41 inside 50s for the game – a stat Malthouse said gave him great optimism.
"If you said to me for the next 22 weeks home and away we'll allow a 41-entrance average, I reckon I'd be almost, almost tempted to take it," he said.
"Forty-one's not going to win a lot of games of football, but it did tonight because they utalised the ball a lot better than us."
What it means
Adelaide coach Brenton Sanderson demanded a faster start from his side after an abysmal showing against Geelong last weekend and he got it when the Crows jumped to an early lead. Despite the ordinary finish by Adelaide, Sanderson was buoyed by the settling of a few selection issues ahead of round one, with Josh Jenkins and Luke Brown seeming to have done enough to cement their spots. While the loss saw Carlton bow out of the NAB Cup race, Mick Malthouse wouldn't be too disappointed, having beaten a full-strength Adelaide unit in contested possession - a great sign so close to the regular season. With a few big names to return including Chris Judd, the Blues still look a flag threat.
What they said
"For three quarters we played some decent footy; attack and defence. We'll obviously review the last quarter. We let Carlton back in the game and without (Matthew) Jaensch's tackle we were in a bit of trouble I think." – Adelaide coach Brenton Sanderson.
"The ball we gave up in the forward line they scored from, the ball we got in the forward line we didn't necessarily score from…41's (inside 50s) not going to win a lot of games of football, but it did tonight because they utilised the ball a lot better than us." – Carlton coach Mick Malthouse.
It wasn't a night for the Dream Teamers with nobody managing to crack the ton. Adelaide skipper Nathan van Berlo came close with 94 points, while Blues Dennis Armfield, Brock McLean and Andrew Carrazzo were all solid with 86, 85 and 84 respectively. Taylor Walker's five goals only got him to 83 points and the normally prolific Scott Thompson was down, managing just 76 for the night.
Adelaide: Walker 2, Jacobs, Vince
Carlton: Murphy, McLean
Adelaide: Walker 3, Jenkins 2, Petrenko, Johncock, Douglas, Crouch, Dangerfield, van Berlo.
Carlton: Lucas 3, Armfield, Robinson 2, Scotland, McLean, Hampson, Garlett, Yarran
Adelaide: Reilly, Thompson, Walker, van Berlo,
Carlton: Carrazzo, McLean, Lucas, Armfield
Adelaide: Callinan (leg)
Umpires: Donlon, Fila, Mollison
Official crowd: 7,511 at AAMI Stadium