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Adelaide has endured periods of fierce North Melbourne dominance, taking its third straight win in a late season flurry – 15.13 (103) to 10.14 (74).

The Kangaroos seemed inspired by the return of star Ben Cunnington for his first game of the season but missed opportunities and a spate of injuries in the second half left them out of gas as the Crows finished strong.

It means Adelaide has now won eight games for the season and has improved its campaign for 2021, while North Melbourne showed promise but remains in the box for the wooden spoon.

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QUARTERLY SUMMARY

Wayne Milera (back) was a late out, replaced by James Rowe at the starting line. Ben Davis (Adelaide Crows) and Hugh Greenwood (North Melbourne).

Ned McHenry struck first for the Crows, hitting a set shot from the 50 yards.

Cunnington got off the ground to rest after the first few minutes, but his balance in traffic and clean clearance helped open up avenues of attack for the Rose.

The Crows missed a few chances in front of goal along with the Roos, but Taylor Walker fired a set shot to score the second goal of the game.

Nick Larkey gave the Roos their first goal of the game with a quick snap that dribbled through the open target, but a clean finish from Lachlan Murphy in the forward pocket made it three goals for the Crows.

A late flurry from North Melbourne saw Cameron Zurhaar and Jack Ziebell reduce the margin to just 10 points in the quarter.

Todd Goldstein helped the Rose pick up where they left off and fired through a target on the run from a tight angle.

Callum Coleman-Jones gave North Melbourne the lead, but the Crows reacted quickly through Riley Thilthorpe.

As goals for Fogarty and Walker put the Crows ahead by two, a scoring procession from de Roos followed, with three goals to go with incredible dominance from the center.

By halftime, North Melbourne led by eight points, but it could have been more if it hadn’t kicked in front of the goal.

Luke Davies-Uniacke was key to the Rose’s resurgence, with the young gun’s halftime stats of 24 divestments (nine disputed), seven center bounce clearances, and seven within the 50s.

De Roos picked up where they had left off in the third quarter, with Davies-Uniacke reaching the scoreboard, before the Crows reacted with the next three majors.

Paul Curtis helped keep North Melbourne stable with a goal in the third quarter backend.

In a fitting reflection of the match, the scores were even three quarters of the time.

De Roos’ injuries continued to mount, leaving them with only one fit player on the bench for much of the final term.

The Crows pounced on their weakened opponents and eventually ran over them.

THE 3-2-1

3) BEN’S BRILLIANT RETURN

Some things are bigger than footy.

Ben Cunnington made his AFL return in his first game since Round 19 last year, capping off a comeback from two bouts of testicular cancer.

A moving pre-game saw Cunnington welcomed to the ground by his family, with the 31-year-old shedding tears as he finally broke through the banner and prepared to take his rightful place in the North Melbourne seniors.

“He didn’t just have a few tears at the start of the game. It was a real show of emotion,” Mark Ricciuto told Fox Footy.

“You can only imagine people who haven’t been through what he’s been through… it just shows what he’s had to go through to come back.”

Double premiership for the Rose, David King, was another full of praise for the midfielder’s spirit.

“He took this football club on a journey,” he said.

“He’s just been great, the emotional click can mean a lot to a club, especially a club that struggles all year round.

“Sometimes you just need something to cling to and that’s been Ben today.”

A few things have changed since Cunnington last played, most notably the rise of Luke Davies-Uniacke at the center.

The growing midfield brigade, Leigh Montagna said, could help reduce the wear and tear that Cunnington has so often endured in the latter stages of his career.

“He’s been out for 13 months and I think he realized that when he looked left and right and saw Jy Simpkin and Luke Davies-Uniacke, he thought, boy oh boy, maybe I don’t have to do as much as I did in 10 years.” said Montagna.

2) FOGARTY thrives in Crows with a new look

Adelaide has now won three consecutive matches for the first time since 2020, but it is perhaps the way they do it that is most impressive.

It’s no longer Taylor Walker or bust for the Crows, but instead there are some standout performances from the young brigade, led by Darcy Fogarty.

It has been brilliant form for Fogarty since Round 11, scoring 28 goals from 11 games.

Four of those goals came on Saturday afternoon, and the marksman shot them from everywhere as he helped his side to victory.

“He’s had a breakthrough season,” Mark Ricciuto told Fox Footy.

“Came to the club in 2017, started with a bang and then had a flat spot for a few years. I don’t know what clicked this year but it clicked, he’s had a whopping three months.

“Big, strong and very capable, he could be a player of the future… It’s not Tex Walker winning the games for them, it’s the younger players driving it. Darcy Fogarty played a key role in that.”

Fogarty leads a core of starts that impress the spectators.

“Just looking at the bones of this rebuild, Thilthorpe, Berry, Schoenberg, Fogarty, Hamill and McHenry, Soligo is becoming a star,” said David King.

“There’s a lot to work with.”

1) LDU TAKES BIG STEP

Luke Davies-Uniacke has had several standout games this season, but he once again proved how he can tear up a game.

On Saturday at halftime, the 23-year-old had put in a performance that many players would be happy with full-time.

He had 24 divestments (nine disputed assets), seven center-bounce clearances and seven within the 1950s.

“I remember seeing him a few years ago and thinking this guy could move,” said Mark Ricciuto.

“He has the best lateral step, great agility, weaves in and out of traffic. Adelaide has not been able to stop him. I’ve seen him shrug guys like Rory Laird and Sam Berry, the number one and two tacklers in the league.

“He just made them look soft sometimes. He’s playing a breakout game.”

By the end of the day, he had 37 disposals and one goal to go with six goals to go.

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