Ken Hinkley's men were second best for the majority of the contest on Sunday, but produced when it mattered most to secure an important win.
Who would have thought that Port Adelaide’s 0.1.1 score at the end of the first term would prove to be so crucial? In a game where goals were at a premium, it was a single point that separated a spirited Collingwood side and a poor Port Adelaide team at the MCG on Sunday afternoon.
Again Port started poorly as the Pies kicked the first three goals of the game and in truth should have had more but Ken Hinkley’s side can consider themselves very fortunate they were not up against a quality side.
After a week from hell, every person in the AFL community knew that Collingwood would come out breathing fire, and the fact that Port were their opponents just added some extra spice. The prison bar jumper debate has more than run its course, but the MCG was littered with the Port Adelaide version and you could tell that there was an added layer to Sunday’s contest.
Collingwood deserved to win the match. There are no two ways about it. They played the better football and had it been for some better finishing, they would have walked away with a well-earned four points. The Pies had more disposals, three more inside 50s, smacked Port in the clearances (largely in part to Brodie Grundy), won the contested possession count by 10, and had 76 more uncontested possessions.
Collingwood won every stat, except the one that mattered, the score. Brodie Grundy gave Peter Ladhams a lesson in the first half but to his credit, Ladhams fought back to at least even the contest in the second half.
Grundy had 33 hit-outs, 23 disposals, 14 contested possessions, and two goals to Ladhams 21 disposals, 10 hit-outs, nine contested possessions, and 14 pressure acts. So while Grundy got the better of his opponent, Ladhams didn’t roll over and held his own.
You could struggle to find any players worth noting after Sunday’s win but it was the usual suspects in Travis Boak (27 disposals), Ollie Wines (27 disposals one goal) who were at the forefront of Port’s efforts. Special mention needs to go to Kane Farrell who stood up early on when Port was getting overrun (23 disposals, five contested possessions, 550 metres gained- game-high, and four score involvements). Sam Powell-Pepper’s efforts in the last term could go overlooked but he was instrumental at the coalface and his game-high eight tackles were a feature to go along with his 18 disposals and 1.1.
Aging superstar Robbie Gray turned back the clock and had one of his best games of the year booting three goals, gathering 18 possessions, having five score involvements and two clearances as he was Port’s best forward on the day.
Ultimately, it is a matter of taking the four points and moving on. Port was well below their best and we perhaps brought down to Collingwood’s level but credit where it is due, the Pies deserved to win the game without a doubt.
The slow starts are a concern now for Ken Hinkley. That is two weeks in a row now that Port has been left in the dust and if they harbour any intentions of winning the premiership then these slow starts have to stop and stop now.
Port Adelaide got what it wanted on Sunday, albeit in trying circumstances, but it raised more questions than it answered. Against a team that brought the heat for the majority of the contest, Port couldn’t handle it, however, there is a shining light of sorts.
When the game was there to be won and when it mattered most, Port found another gear behind the efforts of Boak, Wines, Gray, and Powell-Pepper. With the win, Port remains fifth, only out of third on percentage but performances like this can’t keep happening.
The Power got the result in the end, but as we head to the halfway mark of the season, the jury is still out as to whether Port Adelaide are premiership contenders. Zak Butters, Xavier Duursma, Scott Lycett, and Orazio Fantasia were all missing on Sunday, and when they return Port will look a vastly different side.
The question is can they keep their head above water and keep their position in the top eight until their stars return? Time will tell.