Hawthorn have survived the mother of all scares to win through to the 2012 AFL Grand Final, beating Adelaide in the 1st Preliminary Final, 13.19.97 to 14.8.92 at the MCG Saturday.
Hawthorn will play Sydney next week for the 2012 flag.
Heavily favoured to win during the week against an Adelaide side without key defenders Daniel Talia and Sam Shaw, inaccuracy and uncharacteristic poor kicking meant that Hawthorn squandered their early ascendancy and found themselves seven points behind at quarter time.
It was a first quarter that started slowly, in contrast to Hawthorn’s first final against Collingwood. Kurt Tippett displayed a return to form and was dominant early, kicking the first goal of the match and another later in the quarter from the boundary. While Adelaide’s key forwards looked dangerous, Sam Mitchell and Luke Bruest were busy for Hawthorn, and Cyril Rioli was roving the ball beautifully in Hawthorn’s backline.
Adelaide stepped up their frontal pressure to start the second quarter, and despite Hawthorn having most of the ball, Taylor Walker kicked the first goal of the quarter against the run of play. Hawthorn replied with goals to Lance Franklin and then Bruest, but their biggest worry was Tippett who was influencing the game not only deep forward but also when used in the ruck.
When Shaun Burgoyne finished with class the Hawks were eight points up, but two more goals to Walker, one from outside 50 after the siren, gave Adelaide a five point lead at the main break. Hawthorn had 26 inside 50s to 13 and 15 scoring shots to 10, but found themselves behind and facing a premature exit from the premiership race.
Alastair Clarkson must have blasted his charges for their inefficiency and wastefulness at half time as the Hawks produced their best patch of football immediately after the intermission, kicking 4.2 to 0.1 in the first nine minutes of the third quarter. However, the one way traffic was short lived as more Tippett brilliance created a goal for captain Nathan Van Berlo.
A second third-quarter goal to former Crow Jack Gunston was responded to by another by Tippett, but some Rioli brilliance once again extended the Hawthorn lead to 20 points. Like the first two quarters, Adelaide would kick the final goal of the quarter, this one to Brodie Smith from 50 metres out, and Hawthorn led by 16 points at the final change.
The pressure was starting to tell on Hawthorn, as Adelaide began the final quarter more composed with the Hawks looking shaky. Patrick Dangerfield, who was struggling after a head knock in the second quarter, sprung to life with an inspired ten minutes to start the quarter. His hard work ended in a goal for Kurt Tippett, who was causing headaches for maligned Hawthorn key defender Ryan Schoenmakers.
Things only got worse when a free kick for high contact to David Hale was reversed when Schoenmakers remonstrated with the offending Crow, Jason Porplyzia, who duly goaled. Shortly after a wonderful long goal by Adelaide sub Graham Johncock put Adelaide in front for the first time since the opening minutes of the third quarter.
The reversal against Schoenmakers looked to be the turning point of the game at this point, but Hawthorn responded. An important centre clearance by Burgoyne was translated into a goal by Rioli. Rioli then had a hand in the sealer, as Ben Stratton’s tackle on Dangerfield helped turn the ball over, and Hawthorn through Rioli and Jordan Lewis got the ball to Franklin, who kicked his third. A late goal to Walker reduced the margin to five points, but that is where it would stay and the Hawks had booked their Grand Final ticket.
Hawthorn will be relieved to make the last Saturday in September, but will know they need to improve in order to beat a quality Sydney side. Adelaide, criticised through the year for merely taking advantage of a soft fixture, have earned the respect of the footy world with their Preliminary Final performance, but that is not likely to ease the hurt they are feeling right now.
Hawthorn: Franklin 3, Breust 2, Gunston 2, Rioli 2, Young, Shiels, Burgoyne, Suckling
Adelaide: Tippett 4, Walker 4, Henderson, Sloane, Smith, van Berlo, Porplyzia, Johncock
Hawthorn: Mitchell, Bruest, Rioli, Sewell, Shiels, Burgoyne.
Adelaide: Tippett, Sloane, Porplyzia, Dangerfield, Douglas, Vince.