Power steeled for finals after hard-fought win over Bulldogs
By Lance Jenkinson
Port Adelaide has timed its run to perfection, both in its final round victory over the Western Bulldogs and the season on the whole that has seen it gatecrash the top four party late.
The Power trailed for most of a thrilling contest at Marvel Stadium on Friday night, but dug deep to overturn a 15-point deficit in the last quarter to walk away two-point victors.
It moved the Power to the top of the ladder and a top two spot is a certainty.
Conversely, it was a major blow for the Bulldogs, who incredibly could tumble to fifth by the end of the round.
The Bulldogs were premiership favourites earlier this month, but three consecutive losses has dented their confidence.
Can the red, white and blue re-capture some of the form that had people talking them up as a flag chance?
That is a question for another day because this night was all about Port Adelaide.
Three Power stars who had a monumental say on proceedings were Travis Boak, Robbie Gray and Ollie Wines.
Two of those players, Boak and Gray, are in the twilight of their careers and desperate to claim a first premiership.
They played the game like their lives depended on it.
That duo will likely get no better chance to win a flag than in the next month of football.
Boak’s first half was remarkable.
The 33-year-old midfielder was everywhere for the Power with 21 disposals.
He maintained the rage in the second half, finishing with 31 disposals and two goals.
A set shot goal in time-on of the final quarter gave the Power the impetus.Embed from Getty Images
Gray, who kept bobbing up all night, got his just reward with the game-sealing goal.
The 33-year-old finished with a game-high seven clearances.
When the Power was seemingly cut midway through the fourth quarter, it was Wines who dragged his side over the line.
The 26-year-old onballer kicked a crucial long range goal that kick-started the Power’s three consecutive goals to finish the game.
Wines blitzed late with 34 disposals and nine tackles.
Port Adelaide bullied the Bulldogs in the ruck battle.
It was their clear advantage heading in, but Bulldogs coach Luke Beveridge opted to use makeshift ruckman Lewis Young in the big man battle.
Power ruckman Scott Lycett had it all his own way.
The Power won the hit outs 51-18 and were plus-seven in the clearances.
Lycett had a whopping 40 hit outs to Young’s 13 and his dominance grew the longer the game wore on.
Not only did Lycett win the taps, but he also worked hard at ground level with five clearances.
Peter Ladhams was hardly seen in the first half, but he kicked two second half goals, which were crucial with Power forward Mitch Georgiadis going down with a hamstring injury.
Port Adelaide’s defence of Tom Jonas, Ryan Burton, Dan Houston, Trent McKenzie, Aliir Aliir and Darcy Byrne-Jones were resolute.
After conceding the opening four goals of the match, the Power was the better side and deserved their win, albeit by a whisker.Embed from Getty Images
Port Adelaide coach Ken Hinkley praised the resilience of his side to not give up late in the game.
“It was a remarkable result really, because we tried everything we did to lose it ourselves with our conversion,” he said.
“We were pretty dominant really through the game and we just couldn’t get the score.
“To the Bulldogs credit, they were able to go forward and hit the board, so it was a remarkable win really when you consider it took that late in the game to get there.”
It was a tight, brutal and low scoring game that had the feeling of a finals match.
Hinkley believes that kind of game is the perfect preparation for the Power heading into September.
“Finals are like that and they’re going to be like that all the way through,” he said.
“It’s going to be tough and tight.
“We played in them last year and lost a prelim final by a goal.
“We understand you’ve got to be able to go the whole way and you’ve got to hang in there sometimes.”
The Bulldogs had plenty of bursts and there were highlights aplenty, but they could not sustain it for the full four quarters.
When Adam Treloar took a skyscraping mark and converted to put the Bulldogs up by 15 points at the 10-minute mark of the last quarter, it seemed like they had done enough to break the spirit of the Power.Embed from Getty Images
But, like they had all night, the Power refused to go away, and eventually made the Dogs pay for their patchy performance.
For the Bulldogs to keep their spot in the top four, they need the West Coast Eagles to either beat the Brisbane Lions, or lose by a small margin, but Beveridge is not holding his breath.
“We’re anticipating we’re going to finish fifth,” Beveridge said.
“I just spoke to the boys about how we’re all in their corner and that ultimately we walk out of the room, yes, we’ll be absolutely flat and disappointed with the defeat, but all we can do is believe that we can stay the course and continue on and win as many games as we can from here on end and do our best to stay positive.
“That unified approach to the next week is absolutely crucial to how we front up.”