14/04/2024

Anne Hatchard starred with 24 disposals in the Crows' semi-final win over Collingwood. (Photo: Adelaide Crows AFLW/Twitter)

A Chelsea Randall-less Adelaide has won through to their fourth preliminary final in five seasons, with the defence standing tall without their skipper to hold off Collingwood by 12 points in wet and wild conditions at Unley Oval.

In stormy weather, the players dealt with all the elements, with multiple delays before the game and at the quarter-time break due to lightning.

After resuming from the lengthy delay, the ball lived at the end of the ground the wind was favouring, putting the defending team under siege.

The Pies had the advantage with the wind after half-time and owned the territory battle for almost the entire quarter, only conceding the one inside 50.

However, for all their territorial dominance, could only manage one goal and two behinds. The goal came as a result of some quick thinking at the top of the goal square from Eliza James, fresh off her four-goal performance last week.

The Crows’ early goal cushion when the conditions were more favourable meant that they could manage play on the side of the ground where the wind was heavy.

They absorbed any forays forward that the Magpies threw at them in the third quarter, which allowed them to shut the game down in the fourth where only three behinds were scored.

Coach Matthew Clarke labelled the win a real “grind”, in what he described as one of the stranger days he has been involved in.

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It was the perfect start that the Crows could ask for, getting on the board after only 17 seconds of play.

The clean tap-down and centre break and tap-on from Ashleigh Woodland allowed Eloise Jones a clear path to register the first goal of the contest.

Clarke said that without Randall this week, the move to put Jones forward was one out of necessity, but one that had an impact.

“When Chels went out, we had to shuffle things around a little bit,” Clarke said.

“Eloise went forward, clearly she’s played that role earlier in her career and I thought it was an impactful game.

“It probably wasn’t ridiculously high possessions but she’s an impact player.”

It was the two opening quarter goals that proved the difference for the Crows with both sides struggling to find clean chains of possessions, the heavy conditions making skills hard to execute.

In the end, it was the Crows who were more polished and tidier, winning the possession and territory battle, finishing with eight more inside 50s.

After being held to just two disposals in the opening quarter, star midfielder Anne Hatchard relished the heavy and contested conditions, finishing with a match-leading 24 disposals.

Fellow midfield bull Ebony Marinoff was well held by Aishling Sheridan from a possessions point of view but thrived in the congestion, finishing with 13 tackles and still having an imprint on the game.

Clarke and the Crows expect Chelsea Randall to be available to face Brisbane in the preliminary final at Metricon Stadium on Friday night.

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