The Eagles finish strong to beat the Crows by 40 points in Perth, after Melbourne beats Carlton for its ninth straight win to start the season, and Essendon edges Fremantle by seven points.
Look back at Sunday’s AFL action in our ScoreCentre.
West Coast storms home to hammer Crows
West Coast forward Jack Darling produced a rare nutmeg during a five-goal second-quarter blitz to lead his side to a 30-point win over Adelaide at Perth Stadium.
The Crows put up plenty of resistance early and led by seven points midway through the second quarter, before Darling turned Sunday’s AFL match on its head.
The premiership forward booted five goals in the space of 10 minutes of actual match time to set up the 16.10 (106) to 11.10 (76) win in front of 43,427 fans.
Darling’s first three goals came from strong contested marks, but from there he produced the freakish.
After taking another strong mark 20 metres out and with little angle to speak about, Darling inexplicably decided to play on and attempt a dribble kick on goal.
Defender Brodie Smith was in front of him and stuck out a leg in an attempt to block the ball, but it dribbled through his legs and in for a goal.
The 28-year-old’s fifth goal was another perfect example of the enigma that is Jack Darling.
Darling dropped an easy uncontested mark, quickly regathered the ball and kicked truly from 40 metres out while being bumped to the ground.
The five-goal blitz gave West Coast a 29-point lead at half-time, and the home side held Adelaide at arm’s length for the rest of the match.
Darling finished with 5.2 and five contested marks from 15 disposals, while Josh Kennedy and Oscar Allen chipped in with three goals apiece.
West Coast ruckman Nic Naitanui (13 disposals, 31 hit-outs, four clearances) won the crucial ruck battle against Reilly O’Brien (10 disposals, 15 hit-outs, four clearances).
Rory Laird battled hard for Adelaide with 35 disposals, 10 clearances and a goal, while forward Shane McAdam showed plenty of spark on the way to three goals.
West Coast’s third straight win means they are now equal on points with third-placed Geelong (6-3).
The 15th-placed Crows are now 3-6 following five straight losses.
Demons remain perfect with win over Carlton
The Demons made it nine straight wins to open 2021 with a comfortable 26-point victory over Carlton at the MCG.
The previous five times (1941, 1955, 1956, 1960, 1964) Melbourne have won at least nine straight games during a season they have gone on to claim the flag, but they have not won a title in 57 years.
This is the first time Melbourne have started a season 9-0 since 1956.
The Demons lit up a wet and gloomy Victorian day with some red-hot football, downing the disappointing Blues 13.16 (94) to 10.8 (68) in front of 38,581 fans.
It was actually their 11th straight triumph, counting the two victories they had to round out the 2020 season, equalling the second-best streak in club history.
Rejuvenated Demons forward Tom McDonald continued his dominant start to the season with three first-half goals, while Bailey Fritsch also finished with a trio of majors.
Exciting small forward Kysaiah Pickett produced another goal-of-the-year contender when he expertly dribbled the ball through from a tricky angle in the third quarter.
In the final term, Pickett looked to have snapped another extraordinary goal but he immediately indicated to the goal umpire that Carlton defender Adam Saad touched the ball off his boot.
The Blues dominated clearances 48-33 but Melbourne had answers across the ground to quell any disadvantage at the stoppages.
Carlton’s injury list grew with David Cunningham suffering a suspected season-ending knee injury in the first quarter.
The 24-year-old clutched his knee and was subbed out of the game for Michael Gibbons, with fears he has ruptured his anterior cruciate ligament.
Star forward Harry McKay put another scare through the Blues camp only minutes later when he hurt his right shoulder, but was cleared to return to the field and played out the game with pain killers.
The Coleman Medal leader finished with three goals, including two in as many minutes during the third quarter, to again be one of Carlton’s best performers.
Melbourne head to Adelaide next Saturday for a clash with the struggling Crows, while Carlton are back at the MCG for a must-win game against Hawthorn, who are coming off a shattering loss to North Melbourne.
Essendon edges Fremantle by seven points
Brayden Ham stepped up as the unlikely hero as Essendon clinched a nail-biting seven-point AFL victory over Fremantle.
Ham seized his moment with six minutes left at Marvel Stadium on Sunday, snapping what proved to be the final goal of the game under pressure from 45 metres.
The error-riddled contest went right down to the wire, with both sides wasting further chances to take control.
The 10.8 (68) to 8.13 (61) result came after the Bombers lost three games by margins of less than a goal earlier in the season.
Darcy Parish continued his fine form with 39 disposals and 10 clearances for Essendon, with Andrew McGrath also busy in the midfield.
A largely scrappy affair got spiteful at times with Caleb Serong the chief agitator as he shadowed Zach Merrett.
Adam Cerra and Anthony McDonald-Tipungwuti both caught opponents with late bumps that sparked reactions from their respective targets’ teammates, but the play itself never reached any great heights.
It was a costly defeat for Fremantle in their finals pursuit and they only had themselves to blame as inaccuracy in front of goal cruelled their chances.
Matt Taberner kicked 4.3 as the most dangerous key forward on the ground but could have put the Dockers in control before Essendon kicked three goals to one in the final term to run over the top.
Andrew Brayshaw, Nat Fyfe and Cerra worked tirelessly for the visitors.
Despite a 26-16 advantage in inside-50s — including 16-7 in the second term — the Dockers trailed by two points at half-time.
Goals to Michael Walters and Taberner after the restart gave the Dockers the lead but the margin never got beyond 11 points in a third-quarter arm wrestle, with both sides guilty of simple skill errors.
Parish converted a free kick right in front of goal to put the Bombers back within a straight kick at the final change.
Scores were level with six minutes left to play when Ham seized his moment.
Fremantle hosts Sydney at Perth Stadium on Saturday night, while Essendon take on Docklands Stadium co-tenants North Melbourne on Sunday.
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