Port Adelaide’s struggles against quality opposition have continued, with Christian Petracca and Clayton Oliver starring in a 31-point win that put Melbourne’s premiership tilt back on track.
The top-four tussle lived up to its blockbuster billing, but the ferocious Demons rediscovered their high-pressure game to score an impressive 12.14 (86) to 8.7 (55) at Adelaide Oval on Thursday night.
Losses to Collingwood and Greater Western Sydney in their past three games had some questioning Melbourne’s premiership credentials, but the intensity at the contest and connection in the back half that propelled them to nine wins to start the season was back in full effect.
Steven May marshalled the back six expertly, Petracca and Oliver were the architects in the middle, with Petracca following up in attack with three goals as the Demons found a potent mix up front after failing to kick more than nine goals in their past three games.
Ollie Wines, Travis Boak and Karl Amon toiled hard, but Port could only muster three goals in the second half to drop to a 12-5 record.
Melbourne finished a tight first term with two goals inside the last two minutes to lead it by six points at the first break.
Connor Rozee made it a one-point game with a superb checkside goal in traffic early in the second, but Melbourne’s team defence lifted a notch.
With Port struggling to move the ball in their forward half, the visitors booted four unanswered goals to lead by 26 points.
May had had the better of his duel with Charlie Dixon but he gave away a free kick in the dying seconds of the first half and the Power bull cut the margin to 19 points after the siren.
The contest was close during the first quarter, but the Demons began to pull away in the second. (Photo by James Elsby/AFL Photos via Getty Images)Source:Getty Images
Mitch takes off
Mitch Georgiades was goalless and had just three touches in the first half, but he sparked the Power early in the third quarter. The 19-year-old got a perfect sit on Max Gawn’s 208cm frame and pulled down a mark of the year contender. He pushed his shot on goal right, but nailed his second opportunity just minutes later after a strong contested mark and later sliced the margin to nine points with his second.
With the Power pressing, Tom McDonald stepped up with the last two goals of the third term to put his side up by 22 points. The big Demon curled his third major home after his set shot was smothered by Dan Houston with home fans still howling for an out-of-bounds call.
Ken Hinkley was thrilled to welcome back livewire Zak Butters for his first game since ankle and knee injuries suffered in round four, but the star youngster hobbled off with a knee injury late in the third term.
Port fails quality test
Hinkley thinks the conversation about his side’s poor record against highly-rated opposition is a waste of breath, but the chatter around Port’s continued struggles against quality sides will only get louder as the finals approach. The Power were fourth heading into round 17 and with Thursday night’s result they have now lost to the top three above them (Western Bulldogs, Melbourne, Brisbane) and the fifth-placed Cats and seventh-ranked Eagles.
In something of a rarity, four players on the ground were celebrating a milestone on Thursday night: Steven Motlop (200 games), Max Gawn (150), Ed Langdon (100) and Charlie Spargo (50).
POWER 2.2 5.3 7.5 8.7 (55)
DEMONS 3.2 8.4 10.9 12.14 (86)
PHELAN’S BEST POWER: Wines, Boak, Amon, Drew, Powell-Pepper. DEMONS: Petracca, Oliver, Gawn, Langdon, Salem, May, McDonald.
GOALS POWER: Georgiades 2, Dixon 2, Amon, McKenzie, Rozee, Wines. DEMONS: McDonald 3, Petracca 3, Pickett 3, Fritsch, Jackson, Spargo.
INJURIES POWER: Butters (knee). DEMONS: Nil.
UMPIRES Meredith, Gianfagna, Mollison.
PLAYER OF THE YEAR
JASON PHELAN’S VOTES
3 C. Petracca) Mel)
2 C. Oliver (Mel)
1 O. Wines (Port)
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