Port Adelaide slumped to their second loss of the AFL season at the hands of an inspired St Kilda side to the tune of 29 points at the Adelaide Oval on Saturday night.
A five-goal-to-none last quarter meant the Saints ran out easy winners. It was Port’s first game back at the Adelaide Oval since Round 2 when they tackled the Crows and after Saturday night, they might be thinking they are better served playing away in a hub.
It was a tight and tense affair for three quarters with both sides showing that they could easily take a strangle hold on the match but neither did, until the last quarter.
Justin Westhoff earned a reprieve with defender Trent McKenzie being a late out for the hosts and did not do himself any favours on Saturday night in particular with his miskick, which found Dan Butler, who scored a goal in the last quarter to set the Saints on their way. But Westhoff was not alone with half a dozen players who simply failed to show up and put their spot in the side in jeopardy.
So where do I start with Port Adelaide’s performance? At the selection table.
Coming up against two quality rucks in ex-Power big man Paddy Ryder and youngster Rowan Marshall, Ken Hinkley went in with only one recognised ruck in young Peter Ladhams, who has shown signs of promised but it was always going to be a tough task for the young ruck.
Do not forget Ladhams has only played seven AFL games so to put him against a good tandem by himself seemed odd to me. While he was better around the ground, picking up 20 disposals, it was in the centre where the Saints smashed Port.
Port were beaten in nearly every stat on Saturday night. St Kilda had five more inside 50s, led the hit outs 40 to 16, won the clearance battle 42 to 30 and more importantly the stoppage clearances 30 to 20 to give the midfield first use of the ball and they capitalised. The Saints also won the contested possession count by 11 just for good measure.
Trying to find Port players who can hold their heads up high is a hard task. Darcy Byrne-Jones once again was solid across half back with 21 touches and 365 metres gained along with eight intercept possessions.
Peter Ladhams had 20 disposals but was found wanting in the ruck battle as Ryder and Marshall controlled the game from the middle and Dan Houston gathered 18 disposals to be the Power’s third highest ball winner for the night. So if they were Port’s best, then that leaves a lot to be desired for a team on top of the ladder.
A somewhat concerning trend for me is the form of Robbie Gray and Conor Rozee. Both were yet again quiet on Saturday night with Gray only managing seven touches and a goal while Rozee gathered 12.
Gray was not helped with the delivery inside 50 on Saturday night but a player of his calibre probably should be doing more.
Rozee is the definition of a sophomore slump, but to pick on those two would be unfair as there were a number of passengers on Saturday night so the list could easily go on.
Now to the umpiring. I am not one for blaming umpires for a loss. I am a big believer that good sides overcome bad decisions and to use that as an excuse is an easy way out.
While there were some questionable decisions on Saturday night, Port had their chances to win the game, particularly in the third quarter when they bossed the game but could not convert on the scoreboard. The Saints won the free kick count 21-15 but I am not having that as a reason why the game was lost.
Port have played two bad quarters for the year: the second against the Lions and the last quarter on Saturday night, both of which were the reasons they lost those games and both times they conceded five goals to virtually nothing.
While many Power fans are angry, I am more bullish about the side’s chances this year as they have only lost two games. I will hold off for a little while longer, although knowing Port like I do, I feel it is coming like a freight train.
The Power sit at 6-2 for the season and play Melbourne next week, which will not be an easy task as the Dees are just starting to hit form. But Port will need ruckman Scott Lycett back to face Max Gawn because if young Peter Ladhams has to go it alone again against one of the best in the competition, Port could be in for another long day.
Surely Hinkley will not make that same mistake again, will he?
There will be changes to the side for next week’s clash. In reality there could be seven or eight if Hinkley really wanted to make a statement. But with the condensed fixtures coming thick and fast it might just be a good thing that Port have to shuffle the pack and force Hinkley to make changes.
I am not out on Port after on Saturday night, as I feel they have enough points in the bank to warrant the benefit of the doubt. We will see how far this group has come next week when they face Melbourne as this is the time of year the wheels generally tend to fall off.
Will it be different this time? Time will tell.