The Port Adelaide Power have started their AFL finals campaign in impressive fashion, putting in a commanding second-half display to defeat Geelong in their qualifying final at the Adelaide Oval.
With over 20,000 fans in attendance, it was the more experienced Cats who had the better of the early exchanges, however their accuracy in front of goal was lacking from the outset – and continued throughout the entire match.
Port went into quarter-time up three points, but their opponents again found themselves in the ascendancy in the second term, particularly at the contest. A late goal to skipper Joel Selwood looked to have given them a buffer at the main break, only for Brad Ebert to put the hosts back in front by two points before the siren sounded – even though Geelong had more behinds to their scorecard than Port Adelaide had scoring shots.
Tom Hawkins was particularly profligate, going into halftime with 0.3 before finishing the match with another two behinds and no goals.
It was the third quarter in which Port made their move, kicking 3.2 to 1.1 to pull away at the final break. Ken Hinkley’s men were able to wrest control of contested ball back from Geelong after receiving something of a spray from the coach in the sheds, and they prevented the Cats from controlling the flow of the game.
It was an all-too-familiar scenario for Cats fans, who have consistently seen their side lose finals in recent years on the back of one crucial quarter, and so it would prove once again.
A superb solo runaway goal late on to Patrick Dangerfield had given them some semblance of momentum heading into the fourth, and when Rhys Stanley kicked the first goal of the term the threat of a comeback was looming.
However the Power responded, Peter Ladhams getting on the end of some superb build-up work from Zak Butters and Steven Motlop – both of whom were excellent throughout the night – to notch a major less than two minutes after Stanley’s. Todd Marshall then goaled ten minutes later to seal the result.
While key forward Charlie Dixon was kept quiet by Harry Taylor, his only notable moment of the night coming when he was bumped into the stands and took a seat next to a fan, but Port were well served by a number of standout performances. Motlop booted three goals against his former club, Butters played well beyond his years, and the likes of Sam Powell-Pepper, Tom Rockliff and Ollie Wines stood up in the midfield, particularly in the second half.
Hinkley has a couple of injuries to sweat on, Marshall hurting his shoulder early on and Xavier Duursma suffering a sickening head knock in the third quarter, although the youngster was able to eventually walk off the ground after play had been stopped for some time.
However the week off will give both players every chance to be fit for their preliminary final, which will be played in Adelaide against one of the Tigers, Lions, Bulldogs and Saints.
The Cats, meanwhile, will have a second chance next week against the winner of Saturday’s clash between the Eagles and Magpies.
Port Adelaide Power 9.4 58 (Goals: Motlop 3, Ebert 2, Dixon, Rozee, Ladhams, Marshall) def Geelong Cats 5.12 42 (Goals: Stanley 2, Tuohy, Selwood, Dangerfield)