Port Adelaide secured a hard-fought 2-point win over reigning premiers Richmond after having numerous players injured throughout the contest.
My word that is what we call a proper football match. So much on the line for both sides but it was Ken Hinkley’s Port Adelaide who prevailed to remove doubts regarding them as a premiership fancy.
It was a tight and tense affair from the outset and after last week’s debacle at the hands of West Coast, Ken Hinkley needed a response from his players and boy did he get it. Against arguably the best team in the competition over the last five years, Port more than held their own in what was a titanic struggle all night.
After a relatively even first quarter the Power flexed their muscles in the second term and in truth should have been five or six goals up at the main break however bad kicking meant that they held a slender seven-point lead. Port kicked 3.7 to Richmond’s 2.1 as they completely dominated every aspect of the match for the entire second quarter.
Travis Boak was immense (29 disposals), Ollie Wines did what he did best at the coalface with 27 disposals, 14 of which were contested while Aliir Aliir showed to the Port faithful exactly why he was brought to the club, for games like this. His one-on-one work with Tom Lynch and Jack Riewoldt was exceptional and his defensive efforts were a key reason why Port was able to come away with the win. Keep in mind that he gathered 23 touches on the night as well so he can find the football too.
His five intercept possessions ranked him 16th on the night however it was the timing and where on the ground he got them that was of the most importance. Steven Motlop had one hell of a game too with his 15 touches and two goals as he showed incredible work rate through the match, almost like he had a point to prove last night.
Debutant Lachie Jones looked comfortable in his first AFL game and although he did look shaky at times, overall his game was solid to say the least with 17 disposals and seven intercept possessions. The reaction from the Port faithful when he first fan onto the ground tells you all you need to know about how highly he is thought of at Alberton and after last night it is easy to see why. He was tenacious at the football and body-lined it just about every time he was in a contest.
After a rather quiet start to the year by his lofty standards, Robbie Gray showed his class when it mattered most with his late last quarter goal a thing of beauty from the 33-year-old. Then there was the young brigade in Connor Rozee, Zak Butters, and Xavier Duursma. All three will be extremely sore this morning but it was their toughness that impressed me the most.
Rozee got a nasty corked thigh early on in the match but played through the pain. Butters injured what looked like his ankle and knee but soldiered on for as long as he could before being replaced by Sam Mayes. Then there is perhaps the worst of the lot, Xavier. The incident did not look the best and the fact that he looked close to tears after the game kind of tells its own story. The doctors at Port have said it is not an ACL which is great news but we will know more as the days go by.
Towards the end of the game, Port was the walking wounded. Down players, limited rotations against the best team in the land and they stood up. When the Tigers hit the lead in the last term they could have been forgiven for laying down, saying we tried but Richmond is just too strong but they went the other way. They knew what was at stake and through sheer force of will, they kept going and managed to hold off the Tigers who were finishing fast.
Looking at the stats you can see why the Power came away with the win. Port had more possessions, 12 more inside 50s, won the centre clearances by three, blew Richmond away by nine in stoppage clearances and obliterated them in contested possessions (154 to 119). Port had 22 more marks than the Tigers and had 16 inside 50 marks compared to just six from the Tigers.
Sometimes stats are misleading but not on this occasion. They should have put Richmond away in the second term but let them off the hook with bad kicking and were nearly made to pay for it. The game had everything you would want in a football match. Everything hinged on the result, a tough, contested brand of football and two heavyweights giving everything they had.
In my mind Port deserved their win, they were the better side, and it was how they did it that was most pleasing. Down players, numerous others hurt, the Tigers laid down the gauntlet in the last term and they responded as a great side should.
Overall it was a great night for the Port Adelaide football club and certainly earned the respect back that they lost last week and stamped their claim as a flag favourite. The only concern is the number of injuries to come out of the clash but they have an eight-day break before they play Carlton so the injury list could shorten come Saturday night.
Port more than matched it with the best in the business and came away with a vital four points. Are they a genuine premiership contender? After last night that question has been well and truly answered.