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Five talking points: Essendon v Adelaide

Marc McGowan  August 12, 2017 10:40 PM

Highlights: Essendon v Adelaide The Bombers and Crows clash in round 21

1. Howlett might be in trouble
Dangerous tackles in the past two rounds cost Patrick Dangerfield and Brodie Grundy a combined three weeks as it became the hottest talking point in the game. Those tackles concussed both of their 'victims' – Carlton's Matt Kreuzer and North Melbourne's Ben Brown – and that played a role in their suspensions, as did the fact their arms were pinned. A new contender emerged on Saturday night, with Essendon's Ben Howlett conceding a free kick in the final quarter for one such tackle on Crow Luke Brown. Brown hit the surface hard, but was not left concussed. Does that save Howlett? It wasn't a carbon copy of the previous two, but there were similarities and it will no doubt set tongues wagging.

Full match coverage and stats

2. No-one punishes like the Crows
Adelaide deservedly gets a lot of attention for its league-leading 112.7-points-per-game average, and that status owes plenty to the pressure it puts on opposition teams. Don Pyke's men entered the round as the kings of scores from turnovers (73.4 points a match) and set up Saturday night's win in the same fashion. The Crows had 58 points, including nine goals, that way not even two-and-a-half minutes into the second half. Unheralded Richard Douglas – a contender for the competition's most underrated footballer – was a key factor in that. Douglas buried Dyson Heppell in a tackle that led to a Josh Jenkins shot, then followed up seconds later to smother a Conor McKenna kick and dish to Riley Knight for the last goal of the second term. He had a game-high seven score involvements by the main break and finished with 10. Meanwhile, 14.12 (96) out of Adelaide's final tally of 18.15 (123) came courtesy of Essendon giveaways. The Bombers scored just 7.5 (47) from the Crows' turnovers.

3. Daniher's Coleman Medal watch
Adelaide mostly outplayed the Bombers in the opening half, other than a brief patch where Joe Daniher cut loose. The 200cm Don led the Coleman Medal race entering round 21, but failed to bother the scorers in the first term against surprise opponent Alex Keath, who is just three centimetres shorter. That all changed in a 10-minute onslaught to start the second quarter, where Daniher booted three goals to put the Bombers in front. He outmarked dual All Australian Daniel Talia, received a free kick for holding against in-demand defender Jake Lever, then scurried to the goal square to toe-poke another. Daniher also soared incredulously across a pack not long after to almost haul in a screamer. He took a backseat to the Cale Hooker show after that, and his first-half haul was not enough to hold off Eagle Josh Kennedy in the Coleman Medal race.

4. McGrath makes a Rising Star move
This year's NAB AFL Rising Star award is considered a race in three between Hawk Ryan Burton, Port Adelaide's Sam Powell-Pepper and Bomber Andy McGrath, the dux of last year's draft. Essendon gave McGrath a rest last week, as they did in round seven, and he made a magnificent contribution on return. John Worsfold entrusted him with the job on the mercurial Eddie Betts and he kept him goalless, while racking up 25 possessions of his own. McGrath had a couple of first-half turnovers in dangerous spots, but his performance was no better summed up than the way he hunted back one of them. He handballed straight to David Mackay, only to worry the Crows into giving it back, then delivered a lace-out 35m pass to a teammate to get his side out of trouble. Powell-Pepper has a well-deserved break this weekend, so it's over to Burton to see what he can respond with on Sunday.

5. Umpires generous in marking contests
So much time and money is invested into figuring out whether a fingernail flicked the Sherrin on the goal-line, but what does that matter if shots on goal come about for the same reason? The umpires twice paid marks inside 50 in the first quarter on Saturday night despite clear and significant deviations off hands. The first benefited Crows forward Mitch McGovern for the game's opening goal, to spark boos from the pro-Bomber crowd. Essendon's James Stewart later sprayed his set shot after teammate Josh Green, who tried to mark the incoming pass, got a hand to the ball metres before it landed in Stewart's arms.