AFL: Port Adelaide looked to have secured a win over the Blues, until the home side produced an incredible late surge to steal a two-point victory.
THIS one hurt.
Carlton gave Port Adelaide another bolt from the blue, supercharging its season as new questions were asked of Ken Hinkley’s side.
Poor kicking efficiency and composure under pressure would cost Port a second damaging result in the space of a year against the Blues — one that could cost another finals berth. Carlton put up a defensive wall that Port couldn’t crack at Etihad Stadium.
Injury-hit Carlton scrapped a two-point win despite losing Levi Casboult from the outset while stars Matt Kreuzer and Patrick Cripps were also inconvenienced by leg injuries.
Port Adelaide coach Hinkley lamented ‘spooked’ football that marked its 2015 demise against Carlton. Port was again in the fight of its life.
A win would have seen Port sitting pretty at 5-3 but it is still back in the bottom-10 pack.
Port was looking shaky when Sam Rowe struck the first blow of the final term while heroic Kreuzer (two goals) would seal the deal from long range.
Port skipper Travis Boak, who had been searching for touch all game, sparked the visitors early in the final term and Matthew Broadbent followed with another on the bounce while man-mountain Charlie Dixon shook two defenders with brute strength to extend the lead to 17 points.
But Port would still come up short. Cripps missed a crucial set shot but Liam Jones advanced the Blues to within 11 points after a damaging Cam O’Shea turnover.
Liam Sumner then ran down Karl Amon to leave the deficit at four points entering time-on. Port couldn’t repel a committed Blues line-up that won four games in a row for the first time in five years.
Aaron Young is thriving in career best disposals, ground ball gets, inside 50 score involvements, assists and goals with the pacy forward stellar across all categories again. But the good news was limited.
The full grind without ruckmen Paddy Ryder and Matt Lobbe was highlighted as Carlton dominated clearances in the third term. Jackson Trengove was stellar in the first half but noticeably tired. Even Ollie Wines was forced to assume some of the ruck load.
Port struggled to penetrate Brendon Bolton’s defensive press. Carlton didn’t totally convert its third term superiority, where it won clearances (16-9), inside 50s (16-8) and enjoyed 75-51 kicking efficiency.
Chad Wingard materialised, as stars do, to restore a five point advantage at the final change.
Curbing Levi Casboult had been a focus during the week but he was off with a broken leg within the opening minutes of the first term. Andrejs Everitt (three) would assume the scoring load for Carlton.
AFL: Port Adelaide press conference.
Everitt slotted the match opener taking the shot in place of injured Casboult. However, slick work from Jarman Impey set up Justin Westhoff’s first and Port was off.
Trengove drove Port with a phenomenal 13 clearances last week with Hinkley knowing the ‘competitor’ within would always provide a contest.
There was nothing Trengove couldn’t do in the first term, sharking his work to ignite Port with a second goal that was quickly followed by recalled Amon. It would be 11-game Amon’s standout display. Justin Westhoff’s second before the siren from pinpoint Chad Wingard vision provided a handy nine-point buffer.
Zac Touhy booted the first of the second term before the visitors responded with a three-goal surge from Charlie Dixon, Hamish Hartlett and Brad Ebert.
Kreuzer succumbed to injury 12 minutes into the second term reducing Brendon’s Bolton’s man-power and forcing Sam Rowe off Dixon and into the ruck. Suddenly Trengove was the key ruckman on the ground. Yet the Blues picked up the slack, with Everitt firing while reducing the contested possession discrepancy from 37-22 to 70-63.
Aaron Young had been poised to explode and finally hit the scoreboard to restore an 11-point half-time lead for Port.
Assistant coach Nathan Bassett had highlighted turnovers out of defence as a major concern for Port. The rot continued, leading to a group on-field spray from Hinkley.
5 THINGS WE LEARNED
1 — The exit ball from defence was a problem for the Power with Pittard and Byrne Jones having quiet games. It gifted repeat entries to Carlton and made life difficult for the Power’s back six.
2 — It was another challenging day for Jackson Trengove in ruck and a losing day in the end. A tough start then a brilliant first half full of clearance wins, plenty of ball and a goal but fatigue took over and it was hard work from them on.
3 — The Power’s kicking let them down, especially in general play. They couldn’t kick through the Blues zone or over it.
4 — Kade Simpson got free all day. The Power coaches got this one wrong. Badly wrong. Twenty-five possessions at 80 per cent in his 250th game and no opponent in sight. Ouch!
5 — Travis Boak’s fitness will be questioned again after his 12 possession performance. The Power fans deserve an honest answer about their skipper.
— Chris McDermott