SCOREBOARDS can tell lies deep into a game. But premiership tables do not by round 21. 

Port Adelaide can lament losing many games this AFL season by small margins of two goals or less. But there is no hiding from the real story of an 8-12 win-loss count that carried another defeat at Adelaide Oval on Saturday night, this time by 38 points to would-be finalist Richmond.

Port Adelaide has slipped - not just from the pacesetting form that delivered top-four finishes in 2020 and last season, but from the real contenders who chase top-eight finals berths.

Why? It is a question that needs to be answered with list-management moves in October and November when Port Adelaide will need reinforcements in all three playing zones. It is a theme that dictates more work, both on skills and decision-making, needs to unfold on the track during the pre-season. And there will need to be a new edge from a team that appears to have lost its definition.

MG FANS MVP | Vote for your best on ground against the Tigers

After 20 games - with no match remaining against a top-eight challenger - Port Adelaide has a 4-10 record against the 11 teams ranked above it - and just one win against a team that is currently in the top eight (Sydney).

As much as the 0-5 start hurt, there is no dismissing Port Adelaide cannot stand alongside any top-eight side to say: "We measure up."

Richmond on Saturday night overwhelmed Port Adelaide with scoring power - and, quite differently for Richmond, clearance power at the contests.

Port Adelaide battled. But it never commanded the tone of the game nor its opponent.

Richmond's dominant seven-goal rush during the game-breaking third term had the Victorian club six points off the watershed 100-point mark at three quarter-time. Port Adelaide has not conceded so much (94 points) in three quarters in any other game this season.

Richmond's final score of 16.13 (109) is the second-highest score conceded by Port Adelaide this year - and had Richmond not been so inaccurate, particularly with Shai Bolton's 4.5, the 120 points handed to Hawthorn in round two might have been surpassed.

The premiership table cannot lie when Port Adelaide is 12th with a 8-12 record.

07:40 Mins
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Highlights: Port Adelaide v Richmond | PTV

The Power and Tigers clash in round twenty-one

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It is as striking in its tone, just as the tell-tale Port Adelaide match-day "barometer" that defines this team - the contested possession was lost, 173-140.

This game has two significant medical notes which could influence selection in the coming fortnight.

Port Adelaide's best-performed player of the season, midfielder Connor Rozee, was off the field during the second term with concern for his left knee. After tests on the sidelines, Rozee entered the western changerooms to have the joint strapped. His tests on the sidelines were not convincing, forcing Rozee to retreat to the main changerooms just before half-time.

The medical substitute, half-back Riley Bonner, was not activated as Rozee returned with his team-mates after the half-time break - and started the second half on attack.

The power - and stability - of Rozee's legs was not in question in the 10th minute of the last term when he soared onto the shoulders of Daniel Rioli for an exhilarating mark in the rain at the top of the goalsquare at the northern end.

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Rozee rides high into the night sky | PTV

Connor Rozee gets the sit and takes a super hanger before converting

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Port Adelaide defender Darcy Byrne-Jones was benched in the seventh minute of the last quarter after taking a heavy knock to the head from Kamdyn McIntosh in a marking contest. He did return after a six-minute rest - as a forward.  

Mid-season rookie draftee Brynn Teakle returned to the line-up for his second AFL game, but did not get the honours of taking the first centre bounce - a task kept with key forward Jeremy Finlayson.

The athletic ruckman played just 35 minutes - "the best 35 minutes of my life" - before breaking a collarbone in his AFL debut against Sydney on June 18. This time, Teakle survived - and learned - in a full hit-out that added to the anticipation the East Fremantle recruit has generated since arriving from Western Australian in early June. 

Teakle won 21 hit-outs, followed up with three clearances - and influenced field play with eight tackles.

Teakle and Finlayson sharing the bulk of the ruck work allowed All-Australian key forward Charlie Dixon to restore himself as Port Adelaide's prime target in an attack without 2022 leading goalscorer Todd Marshall (COVID protocols) and Mitch Georgiades.

The final count was all in Richmond's favour - 52-31 with the hit-outs. And there was no win for Port Adelaide at ground level. Richmond won all clearances 45-39 - 13-9 at centre stoppages. These numbers - along with the -33 differential at contested possession - will make for a tough review at Alberton on Monday.

Brynn Teakle battled hard in just his second game. Image: AFL Photos.

Port Adelaide's season is marked by costly momentum swings from which the opposition has built scoreboard pressure. And there are the turnovers.

The first term brought the test of coping with opposition dominance. From the 15th to 20th minutes of the first term Port Adelaide's team defence was challenged with Richmond book-ending goals from Tom Lynch and Jack Ross (and scoring 2.3 in total) while having six quickfire shots at goal.

Richmond's 4.4 from 16 inside-50 entries - compared to Port Adelaide's seven for a super-efficient 3.1 - in the first term created a nine-point gap that was earned not just by Richmond being assertive on every forward thrust, but also from taking an aggressive approach with its defensive plays (as measured by 18 tackles in the opening quarter).

The second term exposed Port Adelaide on turnovers in the back half of the field. Three of Richmond's seven first-half goals were from Port Adelaide failing to find the sure exit point, usually by working a handball where a kick would have been more prudent. Such slip-ups eroded many of the gains Port Adelaide made during the term, particularly at stoppages (19-10 in Port Adelaide's favour, despite losing the hit-outs 15-24), to have the quarter-time gap cut by just one point.

Two of Port Adelaide's three goals in the term were from long plays rather than pin-point moves to leading forwards. First-year defender Jase Burgoyne scored his second career goal, this one from outside 50 deep into time-on. Experienced forward Robbie Gray scored the other on a free kick after a deliberate rushed behind.

There were more inside-50s this term, almost twice as many (13) as in the first quarter. 

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Electric Burgoyne nails running ripper | PTV

Jase Burgoyne kicks a superb long goal on the run

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The third term had a significant momentum shift for Richmond from the 10th minute when it started a five-goal run. A team that has not made its name by being superior at stoppages won 14 more clearances than Port Adelaide with the experienced Richmond duo of Dion Prestia and Brownlow Medallist Trent Cotchin chalking up 11.

Richmond's attack was a torment to a usually solid Port Adelaide defence.

The challenging match-up inside Richmond's forward arc was for key defender Trent McKenzie on Richmond's leading goalkicker this season, Tom Lynch; and for the usually defiant Ryan Burton against Shai Bolton.

Captain Tom Jonas marked Jack Riewoldt, the other long-standing member of this key forward tandem that has marked Richmond's premiership reign.

By the middle of the third term - after Lynch had kicked four and Riewoldt had one - the task of guarding Lynch fell to All-Australian Aliir Aliir while McKenzie moved onto Riewoldt.

Lynch finished with four goals, as did Bolton, and Riewoldt one. 

Port Adelaide makes its last road trip of the home-and-away season next weekend with a rematch against Essendon, this time at Docklands Stadium in west Melbourne on Sunday afternoon. The season will close at home with the Showdown at Adelaide Oval on Saturday week.

At best, Port Adelaide will end a frustrating season at 10-12.


PORT ADELAIDE            3.1    6.4     9.6     10.11 (71)

RICHMOND                 4.4    7.6    14.10    16.13 (109)

BEST - Port Adelaide: Wines, Butters, Houston, Boak.

GOALS - Port Adelaide: Dixon, Finlayson 2, Bergman, Burgoyne, Butters, Duursma, Gray, Rozee.  

INJURY - Rozee (left knee), Byrne-Jones (knock to head).

MEDICAL SUBSTITUTE: Riley Bonner (not activated).

CROWD: 27,051 at Adelaide Oval.

NEXT: Essendon at Docklands on Sunday.