PORT ADELAIDE 4.3 7.6 13.10 19.15 (129) ST KILDA 2.2 4.5 5.5 9.5 (59)
GOALS Port Adelaide: R. Gray 4, Wingard 3, Schulz 3, Polec, Ebert, Hartlett, Impey, Trengove, Westhoff, Pittard, Lobbe, Cassisi. St Kilda: Riewoldt 4, Saunders 2, Milera, Hayes, Dunstan.
BEST Port Adelaide: R. Gray, Hartlett, Lobbe, Pittard, Wines, Impey. St Kilda: Hayes, Riewoldt, Steven, Dunstan, Jones, Newnes.
Injuries: Port Adelaide: A Young (shoulder), J Polec (ankle).
UMPIRES Donlon, Dalgleish, Leppard.
CROWD 42,374 at Adelaide Oval.
The Power has turned Adelaide Oval into its ‘‘Portress’’ by remaining unbeaten in its seven games there, the latest being another crushing performance against StKilda on Saturday.
It was no surprise, really. Even Port’s brutal attack on the ball – especially when a St Kilda player was holding it – was expected, given its current standing in the competition. We also saw the usual magic of Chad Wingard, with a serious mark-of-the-year contender soaring over the back of Sean Dempster in the third quarter delivering the usual deafening roar from the 42,374-strong crowd.
Perhaps the only surprise related to the old quandary: was the glass half full or half empty? Do we applaud St Kilda for at least making a strong contest in the second quarter, or do we suggest Port was dragged to its standard of a 16th-ranked side before completing its steamrolling mission?
It would be too easy to suggest Port simply had a fadeout for the first 22 minutes of that second term, when the Saints held Port goalless and levelled the score in what was probably the most uninspiring football we have seen from the competition leader this season.
As much as Saints fans would be hurting at their sixth-straight loss, and eighth in nine rounds, there were extracts there that we can put into a highlight reel and confirm this young squad is actually going somewhere.
The realities that emerged were that St Kilda does not have the physical and mental toughness – yet – to control and frustrate a quality side long enough to grab the premiership points, and if you smother Port’s forwards, they can struggle like anyone else.
But there were also the obvious signs that Port has the ability, professionalism and tenacity to switch the power on when challenged.
Incredibly, Port dominated the first half in many ways – 22 more disposals, 35 more marks (including 54-18 uncontested), 10 more tackles, 34-11 hit-outs and a low rate of 26-18 inside-50s. The figures would normally suggest a Saints wipeout, yet it was only three goals in three minutes during time-on of the second term that gave Port a 17-point lead at half-time. Significantly, two of Port’s seven first-half goals came from cheap free kicks.
Port went on to win well, and this was just one quarter of basic football, but in recent years the roles were reversed and it was Port that folded without a yelp. The Saints made a lot of mistakes and at times the decision-making left a lot to be desired, but they also pressured Port into early errors, and for that we should give them some credit.
It was concerning that Port, like other sides this year, was able to effectively use a loose man in defence and cut off the often predictable attempted passes to a frustrated Nick Riewoldt.
Alan Richardson would have enjoyed the challenge coaching against the club that he personally put so much into its resurrection as a director of coaching, but until he can find other suitable targets, St Kilda will continue to struggle to kick enough goals each week.
In contrast, Port had numerous options again, even if Jay Schulz silenced the crowd when he missed a set shot. He is normal, after all.
The key on Saturday night was the brilliance of Robbie Gray. He was directly responsible for the opening three goals of the match, and part of the production line of others. That makes him on target for All-Australian selection.
We saw the worst of Port for most of the second term, but to then kick the next 9.5 to nothing was impressive. It was then that we were reminded why Port is on top and the Saints are struggling to stay off the bottom. Ultimately, there was nothing surprising on the scoreboard.