The Western Bulldogs secured a vital 19-point win over Port Adelaide to further enhance their premiership credentials.
When it comes to playing the big guns of the competition, Port Adelaide has a problem (Richmond aside). They have started poorly in every game and whatever Power coach Ken Hinkley is saying pre-game, is falling on deaf ears.
Against the Eagles (5.1 to 1.1), the Lions (4.5 to 1.2) and the Bulldogs ( 6.2 to 2.1) Port have been playing catch up and against good teams, that is a recipe for disaster. Although they did manage to get themselves back into the game in the second quarter thanks to a six-goal to two term, Port Adelaide’s starts are now a serious concern. Ken Hinkley’s men were battered in the middle as the Dogs supreme runners got their hands on the ball at will.
The visitors had more possessions, four more inside ’50s and won the clearances 44-38, won stoppage clearances 30-25, won the contested possessions by 11, and had over 50 more uncontested possessions. Considering the power of the Dogs midfield and without Scott Lycett in the ruck, the Dogs guns had their way.
Ollie Wines was again Port Adelaide’s best as he continues his incredible form with a 32 disposal 1 goal performance. Travis Boak was serviceable with 30 touches and a game-high 29 pressure acts. Up forward no one stood out in any capacity with Orazio Fantasia, Charlie Dixon, and Mitch Georgiades all booting two majors in the loss. Peter Ladhams acquitted himself well in the ruck for Port with 18 disposals, two clearances and 37 hitouts, while Aliir Alirr had one of his quieter games in the backline.
To get an idea of how dominant the Western Bulldogs midfielders were, six of the top eight possession winners were Bulldogs. Jack Macrae (32), Tom Liberatore (27), Adam Treloar (26) Marcus Bontempelli (26, 2 goals), Caleb Daniel (26), and Baily Smith (25) all had their share of the football.
What was alarming for the entirety of the match was the fact that the Dogs always had one or two players sitting by themselves outside a stoppage which then allowed them to move the ball forward without much pressure. The first quarter was clear evidence of this as the Dogs slammed on six goals to two and Port was chasing tail for the remainder of the game.
Make no mistake about it, the Dogs were full value for their win and showed exactly why they are considered one of the premiership favourites for the 2021 season. For Port, they did not lose any admirers in the 19-point loss but their slow starts are a real cause for concern now as it took a huge second term for them to get back level on the scoreboard.
The Western Bulldogs were simply just more clinical and cleaner when it counted whereas Port left a bit to be desired, particularly going inside 50. Many critics will have the knives out for Charlie Dixon, however, for some reason against the good sides in West Coast, Brisbane and now the Dogs, Port Adelaide seem to resort to bombing the ball inside 50 where Dixon has to compete with two and sometimes three defenders.
What this result does tell us, is that Port are not too far away from the best in the competition and with the return of Lycett, Butters, Houston, and Duursma this team can do some damage. However, with Port now slipping outside the top four and having the potential to drop as low as sixth should the Eagles account for Adelaide today. Suddenly the next two weeks in which they play Collingwood and Fremantle becomes hugely important.
With a suspected broken jaw to defender Tom Clurey, Port’s medical room is slowly filling up with Butters, Houston, and Duursma already out, their depth continues to be tested yet again.
Overall Port fell short against one of the premier sides and it doesn’t change the opinion of what they are capable of this season, but it does show what is needed to compete with the absolute best.
Port Adelaide was slightly off last night and it is those fine margins that decide games of football at the elite level. The Dogs deserve their title as the team to beat but don’t sleep on Port Adelaide just yet. This season still has a long way to go.