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Port Adelaide survives scare to beat Melbourne by 20 points

Power's Robbie Gray is carried off after his 100th game.

Power's Robbie Gray is carried off after his 100th game.

PORT ADELAIDE 5.4  8.4  10.9  14.11 (95) MELBOURNE 2.2  7.4  10.5  11.9 (75)
Goals: Port Adelaide:
J Schulz 2 J Westhoff 2 R Gray 2 A Young Brad Ebert J Neade J Polec K Mitchell M White O Wines T Boak. Melbourne: C Pedersen 2 C Salem 2 D Tyson 2 J Frawley 2 R Bail 2 M Gawn.
BEST Port Adelaide: Boak, Gray, Westhoff, Broadbent, Cornes. Melbourne: Tyson, N Jones, M Jones, Howe, Dunn.
Umpires: Justin Schmitt, Jeff Dalgleish, Nicholas Foot.
Venue: Traeger Park, Alice Springs.

At the 10-minute mark of the first quarter, Melbourne trailed Port Adelaide by four goals to nil. In their recent past life, this beginning would have ensured an awful beating for the Demons. They would not have recovered.

But the Paul Roos-coached version of Melbourne, which has added Dom Tyson and Christian Salem, is made of sterner stuff than the teams of 2013, 2012, 2011 and even the round-two unit of 2014 that West Coast dismantled. This team scraps and has developed the ability to defend, and then counter-attack.

Matthew White breaks free against the Demons.

Matthew White breaks free against the Demons.

Time
FT
Team
MFC
Score
11.9.75
Team
PAFC
Score
14.11.95
Melbourne versus Port Adelaide
View Match Statistics
Players Frawley (2.2), Salem (2.2), Pedersen (2.1), Bail (2.0), Tyson (2.0), Gawn (1.0), Toumpas (0.1), Vince (0.1), Viney (0.1) Scorers Westhoff (2.2), Gray (2.1), Schulz (2.0), Boak (1.1), Neade (1.1), White (1.1), Ebert (1.0), Mitchell (1.0), Polec (1.0), Wines (1.0), Young (1.0), Pittard (0.1)

Melbourne's improvement is such that it led Port by 10 points midway through the third quarter, just after Chad Wingard was carted off on a stretcher following a boot to the head from Jay Schulz when the spearhead attempted a (failed) screamer.

Port had edged back in front at three-quarter time (four-point lead), but the match seemed very much in dispute. In the early minutes of that last quarter, the Dees indeed, had the momentum. When the clean-skilled Salem slotted an angled shot from a Jimmy Toumpas pass, they led by five points. The improbable - which Roos had talked down before the game - seemed very possible.

But as Roos later rued, the Dees couldn't take their opportunities - 1.4 for the quarter.

The disappointed Demons trudge off the field after the mighty effort.

The disappointed Demons trudge off the field after the mighty effort.

Port had lost Wingard and having entered the match without quality midfielder Hamish Hartlett, Angus Monfries and Dom Cassisi, the Power suddenly seemed vulnerable, their depth being tested for the first time this year. The Dees were kicking with a slight breeze, to the end where they'd booted five goals to three in the second term.

Tyson, the Jones boys - Nathan and Matt - and Jack Viney were winning key balls, Lynden Dunn had control of Schulz, while Jeremy Howe was excelling behind the ball, treating the 5600 Alice Springs locals to one of his pattened speccies - this one on the wing over Aaron Young, with the equally spectacular MacDonnell Ranges in the background.

At this point, we wondered if Port's famed running power and endurance would arrive, whether the methods of fitness boss Darren Burgess - and the Power's natural leg power - would again prevail, as it has so often this year and last.

Demons fans bask in the Alice Springs sun Click for more photos

The best pics from Alice Springs' AFL debut

Melbourne took on Port Adelaide on a glorious Alice Springs day Photo: Getty

Well, Port duly prevailed, after Justin Westhoff - the key forward whose casual appearance belies his workrate - slotted a pair of high-calibre goals, one from a crumb and other from a mark in front of Tom McDonald. The momentum shifted in those instants. Jared Polec added another on the run, Ollie Wines got the gimme and Port was able to dock another four points. They survived what was a serious challenge, not so much the cliched ''scare''. The Dees can no longer be considered a dud team.

The final margin of 20 points did not reflect how close the Demons came to what would have been a giant leap. As it was, they took what Roos thought was a major step, simply by working themselves into a position where they might have won.

Port was superbly skippered by Travis Boak, who lifted in the second half and was important to the result. Robbie Gray, another Victorian who has become an Alberton fixture, was likewise outstanding, with 28 disposals and two goals. Westhoff was the best forward afield. Matthew Broadbent was very productive across half-back, particularly in the first half.

The Demons were delighted with Tyson, who, like his team, took another step forward in his development, with two goals and 30 disposals, while Nathan Jones maintained his high standards and extreme workrate. If the Dees missed Chris Dawes, Cameron Pedersen was a reasonable target and has certainly improved.

Pedersen, Dunn and, for that matter, most Melbourne players have lifted their output in recent weeks. The Demons are building. But Port, even in Alice Springs, was just out of their expanding reach.

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