PORT ADELAIDE has earned itself a second shot at a Grand Final in consecutive years with a dominant win over Geelong to open the AFL’s finals series.
In front of a raucous 20,000 strong crowd at Adelaide Oval, Port was at times irresistible against an uncharacteristically fumbly Cats outfit, finishing 12.14 (86) to 5.13 (43) winners and win through to a home Preliminary Final.
It was a hot early but the Cats were wasteful, and it was a former Cat who punished them. Steven Motlop found himself free inside 50 to get the first goal after Todd Marshall’s tackle on forward 50 forced a turnover.
There were some strange umpiring calls that saw Geelong rack up 11 free kicks to four at quarter time and Jeremy Cameron was the beneficiary of one, finishing a set shot about 40 metres out.
The sides traded goals through Robbie Gray and 300-gamer Tom Hawkins and recently crowned All-Australian Aliir Aliir collected five intercepts across the backline as Port got on top with goals to Peter Ladhams from 50 metres out and Orazio Fantasia on the stroke of quarter time.
In his return from hamstring tightness, Fantasia waited down while Charlie Dixon crashed a pack, then snapped home to put Port up by ten points at the first change.
Motlop and Fantasia were again involved as Port’s lead grew to 25 points. Motlop’s second goal came after Dixon pressured an opponent out of a mark, then picked the ball up between his legs to hand it off to the former Cat while Fantasia’s came after an incredible pick up at full speed and snap.
The Cats stemmed the tide as Port went goalless for 15 minutes and the visiting side pinched a goal of its own to Sam Simpson after consecutive down field free kicks.
But Port hit back with late goals to Todd Marshall and Zak Butters to take a 29-point advantage into the main break.
The third term developed into an arm wrestle with Port constantly threatening to force Geelong’s arm flat. Fantasia’s third goal - a 55 metre bomb on the run – after just four minutes was the sole major for the term as Port kept the Cats camped in their defensive half.
With a 35-point advantage heading into the last term, coach Ken Hinkley implored his charges not to take the foot off the gas with the potential for a home preliminary final up for grabs.
And it seemed his side heeded his advice. Winning its first centre clearance for the night after Geelong won the first 12, Port rushed out of the blocks with Fantasia booting his fourth.
A chaos ball inside 50 landed in Joel Selwood’s hands and he got one back for the Cats two minutes later and Hawkins added his second for the night when he found himself free in the goal square.
Fantasia was subbed out of the game with a knee injury after also suffering a head knock which left his nose bloodied, with Sam Powell-Pepper entering the game to one of the loudest cheers of the night.
With much of the sting out of the contest, Port supporters were able to enjoy the final stages and dream of what might come in 2021.
PORT ADELAIDE 4.3 8.7 9.10 12.14 (86)
GEELONG 2.5 3.8 3.11 5.13 (43)
Fantasia 4, Motlop 2, Powell-Pepper 2, Butters, Gray, Ladhams, Marshall
Jonas, Wines, Fantasia, Burton, Aliir, Houston