Crows too good for Bombers in AFL shootout

Adelaide have left Essendon’s AFL finals hopes in tatters, downing the Bombers by 43 points in an Etihad Stadium shootout.

The top-of-the-ladder Crows led at every break on Saturday night and survived a Cale Hooker-inspired Bombers comeback to post an 18.15 (123) to 12.8 (80) victory.

Gun forwards Josh Jenkins and Mitch McGovern booted three goals apiece while Matt Crouch (35 disposals, seven clearances) was dominant in the middle.

Adelaide had powered their way to a comfortable lead before Hooker turned the game with a huge second half.

The reinvented key forward booted two goals in quick succession midway through the third quarter to rouse the crowd from their slumber.

Former skipper Jobe Watson, who earlier in the week announced he would retire at the end of the season, brought the house down moments later when he kicked truly on the run.

Hooker then booted a 55m goal – his fourth for the night – to cut the margin to 19 points and give the Bombers hope of a miracle comeback.

But the clinical Crows had all the answers, snatching the momentum back with goals to Smith and Jenkins on the verge of three-quarter time.

Jenkins proved the chief destroyer for the Crows in the final quarter, adding two more majors to his tally to put the result beyond doubt.

There were positives for the Bombers despite the result, with Hooker and excitement machine Joe Daniher combining for seven goals.

Top draft pick Andrew McGrath meanwhile achieved the rare feat of holding Crows genius Eddie Betts goalless in an excellent shutdown role.

But in a game where both sides didn’t hesitate to take the game on, the clinical Crows were too polished and too potent up forward.

The result leaves the Crows six points clear of second-placed Greater Western Sydney, with a home final virtually guaranteed.

Essendon will finish the round outside of the top eight with just two games remaining.

The Bombers will start favourites against Gold Coast (away) and Fremantle (home) but even if they win both games, it may not be enough to secure a finals berth.

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