Hands off: Geelong's Harry Taylor pushes past Angus Monfries.

Hands off: Geelong's Harry Taylor pushes past Angus Monfries. Photo: Pat Scala

GEELONG 2.2 3.6 8.12 13.18 (96) PORT ADELAIDE 3.2 7.5 8.5 12.8 (80)
GOALS Geelong: Chapman 4, Motlop 2, Hawkins 2, Christensen, Bartel, Corey, Selwood, Duncan. Port Adelaide: Westhoff 3, Schulz 2, Monfries, Brad Ebert, Hartlett, Broadbent, Lobbe, Gray, Logan.
BEST Geelong: Kelly, Selwood, Chapman, Stokes. Johnson, Mackie, Corey, Motlop. Port Adelaide: Boak, Hartlett, Monfries, Cornes, Logan, Moore, O'Shea, Carlile, Westhoff
UMPIRES Stevic, Meredith, McInerney.
CROWD 52,744 at MCG.

In this strange season, teams have lost and found momentum in the space of a game. At half-time in this game, the season's great underdog success, Port Adelaide, led the mighty Geelong Football Club by 23 points.

Geelong had kicked only three goals to this point. It had selected a top-heavy team, in which Tom Hawkins was a contentious choice and it had floundered when sending the ball forward. The Power had used its superior running capacity and speed to score on the counter-attack in a manner similar to Sydney in the 2012 grand final.

Geelong's Steven Motlop celebrates a second-half goal.

Geelong's Steven Motlop celebrates a second-half goal. Photo: Pat Scala

Time
FT
Team
GEE
Score
13.18.96
Team
PTA
Score
12.8.80
Geelong versus Port Adelaide
View Match Statistics
Players Chapman (4.2), Motlop (2.2), Hawkins (2.1), Bartel (1.2), Duncan (1.2), Corey (1.1), Christensen (1.0), Selwood (1.0), Hunt (0.1), Podsiadly (0.1), Varcoe (0.1) Scorers Westhoff (3.0), Schulz (2.1), Hartlett (1.1), Logan (1.1), Broadbent (1.0), Ebert (1.0), Gray (1.0), Lobbe (1.0), Monfries (1.0), Boak (0.1), Colquhoun (0.1), Moore (0.1), Wines (0.1)

Port's use of the ''slingshot'' - the method of outnumbering Geelong and running the ball from defence into an open forward line - had it well placed to slay the Goliath Cats.

Geelong had sent the ball forward 31 times to Port's 23. In the first quarter, it had 17 entries to 10, but where it was slow and uncertain, Port was forthright. The Power would often switch laterally across the field to an open player, exploiting Geelong and opening up holes in a defence - and midfield - that didn't seem as spry as its more youthful opponents.

This pattern of botching forward thrusts and enabling Port to counter-attack would repeat in the second quarter, as Port rebounded and then scored against a Geelong defence that seemed to have lost its cohesion. Is Corey Enright, who was hurt early in the Fremantle final, the organiser who welds the Geelong defence into a unit? Certainly, he has been missed.

Geelong's Steven Motlop celebrates a goal with team mates. Click for more photos

AFL Semi Final: Geelong v Port Adelaide

Geelong's Steven Motlop celebrates a goal with team mates. Photo: Pat Scala

Port had felled Collingwood in somewhat similar fashion. As they had in last weekend's upset, Kane Cornes provided the guile and nous in the midfield, Hamish Hartlett and Travis Boak the class, while Alipate Carlile again subdued a monster forward (Hawkins, after holding Travis Cloke). Angus Monfries, having driven Heath Shaw mad to the point of making him a potential trade, was no less troublesome to Geelong. The former Bomber had booted only one, but had been instrumental in other goals.

No one could quite believe what was unfolding - that Geelong appeared to be folding, heading for a straight sets exit and a Mad Monday that wouldn't feature the theatrics of Matthew Scarlett.

But Geelong's capacity to flick the switch this season has been remarkable. The burst that followed from the outset of the second half was a vintage display in which the Cats wiped off the deficit in a matter of minutes. Seven minutes into the third quarter, they were within three points, as Hawkins (set shot), an energetic Paul Chapman (clever snap across body) and Jimmy Bartel (45 metres angle shot on the run) drilled the goals that rendered the game even.

It was the experienced campaigners who were most responsible for the transformation. James Kelly (12 disposals), Matthew Stokes (14) and skipper Joel Selwood led the midfield charge, while Chapman, too, was active. Alas, Chappie collected Robbie Gray with a Buddy-like bump that the match review panel will examine closely.

Even Hawkins imposed himself somewhat, and the defence - led by Andrew Mackie - began to win contests that had been lost in the first half.

Port would manage only one goal, from a free to Jay Schulz late in the term, and would finish the quarter seven points in arrears.

Geelong had the momentum and one sensed that its experience would get it home and set up the long-awaited reckoning with Hawthorn in the preliminary final.

So it proved. The Cats added a further five goals to prevail by 16 points, with the perhaps the most telling provided by the influential Chapman, who ran down Cornes and converted a gimme for his fourth.

But there was suspense aplenty in that final term, since Port truly never stops, stops, stops, until it drops. From a deficit of almost four goals, the Power surged again, when Justin Westhoff booted a blinding banana, Hartlett slotted another from an angle and the margin was cut to 10 points with two minutes 23 seconds remaining - time enough for another Port miracle.

The Cats regained possession, held it and kicked backwards. Steven Motlop, whose pace had been a factor in the second half, provided the exclamation point with a long goal just before the siren.

Geelong had put the Power out. The Cats were back to their customary place, in the final four. What we wouldn't know - in this predictably unpredictable season - was whether they had regained sufficient momentum in the space of a half to resume normal transmission - which is to say a victory - over the Hawks.

COMEBACK KINGS

Last week it was Chris Judd and Luke Hodge, this week it was Joel Selwood carrying the torch for captains leading their sides from despair. Selwood set the tone of the Cats third-quarter turnaround getting his hands repeatedly on the football in the early stages of the term when the Cats clawed back into the game. Midfielders James Kelly, Mathew Stokes and Joel Corey with Steve Johnson and Paul Chapman forward flipped the game on its head. Port's determined run to spread to space and stretch Geelong evaporated.

CAPTAIN BLOOD

The sight of Selwood shuffling to the boundary line with a trickle of blood appearing from corners of his head but even by Selwood standards this was a prolific night. Minutes into the game he went off with a cut eye only to return with his head bandaged, later it was a bleeding nose and then a third time he trotted away again.

GOAL OF THE YEAR?

It might no longer qualify for goal of the year but Justin Westhoff might have kicked the best goal of the year. Late in the final term, on the boundary at 50 on the run and on he wrong side for a right-footer he lobbed a banana kick for his third goal.

THERE'S NO ESCAPE

Kane Cornes found himself with the ball and exiting a pack in defence after Port had been paid a free, suddenly he had the advantage. A slow player, he still kept running despite looking up and realising he had nowhere to go. Chapman ran him down and kicked his fourth goal to stretch the Cats' lead. - MICHAEL GLEESON