Christian Petracca celebrates a goal during round 16, 2022. Picture: AFL Photos

CLAYTON Oliver and Christian Petracca were at their dominant best as Melbourne restored its buffer at the top of the ladder with a 29-point win over Adelaide at Adelaide Oval on Saturday evening.

Fresh from signing a new long-term deal, Oliver racked up 36 disposals with 20 contested possessions and seven clearances along with 13 tackles, while Petracca had 33 disposals along with three first-half goals as the Dees won 14.10 (94) to 10.5 (65).

Melbourne's victory, achieved without a recognised ruckman with Max Gawn (ankle) and Luke Jackson (knee) sidelined, improved its record to 12-3 after back-to-back wins, having lost three in a row prior to that.


The four points didn’t come easy against the 13th-placed Crows, who got within five points in the last quarter and were led well by Jordan Dawson (30 disposals with a game-high 649 metres gained) and Rory Laird (32 disposals).

CROWS v DEMONS Full match coverage and stats

But it was Melbourne's trump pair, Petracca and Oliver, who combined to set up Ed Langdon's dribbling left-foot goal from an inside-50 stoppage to give them a buffer, before the outstanding Jack Viney moved them 17 points clear with a major.

The tireless Langdon had 33 touches, while Viney finished strong in the final term to have 27 disposals with 13 contested possessions to continue his excellent recent form.


Melbourne only edged the inside 50s (52-46) but their defenders took intercept marks at will, led by Jake Lever (14 intercepts) and Steven May 12 (intercepts), with the Crows guilty of blazing away too often.

The Dees threatened to race away with the game early, booting three goals from seven inside 50s before Adelaide had its first inside 50 entry, but the hosts hit back with the next four majors including two from Taylor Walker before quarter-time.

The free-flowing scoring dried up in the second term with 22 goalless minutes before Riley Thilthorpe's major, which prompted a burst of three inside three minutes for either side, with Petracca getting his third of the game to put the Demons ahead by one point at the long break.

The visitors dominated the third quarter, punctuated by goals from small forwards Toby Bedford and Kysaiah Pickett but were wasteful, kicking 3.6, with Dawson's late goal narrowing the margin to 17 points at the final change.


Laird kicked truly within 20 seconds of the restart, offering hope for the Crows who came from behind to win this fixture in an upset last year by one point.

Ben Keays' goal saw them close within five points but the reigning premiers reasserted control with Oliver and Petracca at the helm before Bailey Fritsch, in his 100th game, kicked the sealer with four minutes to go.

Trac's goal-kicking back on track
Petracca had copped some criticism for failing to kick a goal in his past five games, dating back to the round nine win away to West Coast, but responded in style. The Demons' midbull played a mix of midfield and half-forward, and his output would have pleased coach Simon Goodwin. All three of Petracca's goals came in the first half, including a clinical set shot late in the first term after a series of misses.


Crows can't capitalise on ruck dominance
With the Demons not fielding a recognised ruckman with Gawn and Jackson out, Adelaide enjoyed first hands throughout with O'Brien winning 48 hit-outs. The Crows overwhelmingly won the statistic 57-13 against makeshift pair Sam Weideman and Mitch Brown but failed to capitalise on that dominance around clearances, which Melbourne won 39-34, with the Demons onballers sharking plenty of O'Brien's taps. Only 16 of O'Brien's 48 hit-outs were to advantage.

Reilly O'Brien and Sam Weideman contest the ruck during round 16, 2022. Picture: AFL Photos

Fogarty's nasty finger injury
Crows key forward Darcy Fogarty came off second-best when trying to spoil Lever in a marking contest, dislocating a finger on his right hand. The finger, which appeared to bend the wrong way, forced him off for half of the first quarter needing treatment. Fogarty, who kicked a first-quarter goal, had the finger put back in place and strapped up, resuming to play out the game but his impact was limited, finishing with six touches and three marks.


ADELAIDE            4.0       6.2       7.4       10.5 (65)
MELBOURNE        5.1       6.3       9.9     14.10 (94)

Adelaide: Walker 2, Keays 2, Fogarty, Thilthorpe, Milera, Dawson, Laird, Rachele
Melbourne: Petracca 3, M.Brown 2, B.Brown 2, Harmes, Bedford, Pickett, Langdon, Viney, Sparrow, Fritsch

Adelaide: Dawson, Laird, Keays, O'Brien, Walker, Berry
Melbourne: Petracca, Oliver, May, Langdon, Viney, Lever

Adelaide: Fogarty (finger)
Melbourne: Nil

Melbourne: Luke Jackson (knee) replaced in selected side by Mitch Brown

Adelaide: Lachlan Sholl (unused)
Melbourne: Adam Tomlinson (unused)