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Match Of The Day: Pies power away from Port Adelaide

High ten: Collingwood big man Mason Cox gets the plaudits from teammates Taylor Adams and Brody Mihocek after booting a goal. Photo: GETTY IMAGES

Match Of The Day: Pies power away from Port Adelaide

Rohan Connolly    

With its finals chances squarely on the line, Port Adelaide had hung tough for just on three quarters against Collingwood.

The Power had not once but a couple of times clawed back dangerous deficits, and in a real arm-wrestle of a third quarter had scored the only two goals, the difference just six points with the siren to end the term looming.

But Collingwood has proved time and again this season, despite a long catalogue of injury, that give the Pies an inch and they’ll take the proverbial mile. And after working their tails off for so long, the Power didn’t need what happened next.

Collingwood’s Adam Oxley won a free kick after some rough treatment from Steven Motlop, at that stage close to Port Adelaide’s best player. Magpie teammate Brayden Maynard came in to give Motlop a serve.

The former Cat reacted with a relatively harmless but still undisciplined jab to the chest. Cue the umpire’s whistle, a 50-metre penalty for Oxley, Collingwood’s only goal for the quarter, and in difficult conditions, a very handy two-goal break.

It was also effectively game over. Because any last reserves of fight drained out of Port Adelaide at that moment, the final margin a whopping 51 points, scarcely believable only 30 minutes or so earlier.

To say that goal gave Collingwood the smell of blood would be an understatement. When the last quarter began, the Pies went straight for the jugular, and chowed down with relish.

A final-term demolition started with a goalsquare mark and conversion from Steele Sidebottom. Mason Cox added another shortly after . Hesitation from young Port defender Jarrod Lienert prompted a turnover and another goal to Jordan De Goey.

And in under 10 minutes of the last quarter, it was done and dusted, Collingwood’s spot in a first finals series since 2013 confirmed, Port Adelaide now every chance to miss a finals series only six weeks or so it looked in prime position to be playing a key role in.

This was a tough game for three quarters with both sides as hard at it as could be asked. But when it counted, Collingwood was simply harder for longer.

And perversely perhaps, you have to ask whether that almost weekly loss of key men and all that making-do with first forward then defensive structures which would hardly have been the Magpies’ first choice, has helped give Nathan Buckley’s team a steelier edge that will serve it very well in a few week’s time.

Port Adelaide couldn’t have asked for a better start, at least once Jordan De Goey had put Collingwood’s first goal on the board in under a minute.

Three goals in three minutes was an emphatic statement of the Power’s intent, Paddy Ryder, Justin Westhoff and Jack Watts giving Port a two-goal break before the 10-minute mark, the visitors find plenty of free targets in space and utilising them perfectly.

Ryder’s battle with Brodie Grundy in the ruck was always going to be crucial, and he clearly took the honours early, Port with a 6-1 break in centre bounce clearances by quarter-time.

For all that, though, it was Collingwood which led by then. Tom Phillips restored some parity, and two goals from free kicks put the Pies in front.

Brayden Sier got the first after nailing an accident-prone Riley Bonner in a tackle right in front, and Brody Mihocek pounced on an advantage call after Cox, causing Port all sorts of headaches, also won a free.

That was nothing, though, compared to how the Pies started the second term. It was three goals in under four minutes and a 20-point lead in the blink of an eye, Port hardly even able to get hands to the football.

Travis Varcoe, in his 200th game, snapped the first within 23 seconds of the start. Jaidyn Stephenson gleefully latched on to a ball in the goalsquare which bobbled off Jared Polec’s chest, and Mihocek had his second with a checkside snap.

Port Adelaide seemed to be drifting back into its collective shell. It took a little bit of magic to jolt the Power out of their torpor, and it was Polec, the culprit in one of the goals just conceded, delivering it via a cutting run, two balks and accurate finish. When Travis Boak added another two minutes later, it was back to eight points again.

Now Collingwood kicked again, Taylor Adams, who’d racked up 23 first half touches, bombing one from right on his limit of 50 metres just nine seconds before half-time. Back to 17 points again, Port still with everything to do.

For a while, it seemed the Power had the resolve to find the necessary mettle, too. Robbie Gray and Ryder had it back to five points just five minutes into the second half. Port looked more prepared to take greater risk to earn greater returns and held its own in the clinches.

But the Pies were quietly just sharpening the axe. Skipper Scott Pendlebury and Sidebottom, after quietish starts, were working themselves into the fray. The likes of defender Maynard repeatedly repelled Port’s forward thrusts.

And the Pies’ ever-changing cast of small forwards all looked dangerous, be it De Goey, Sidebottom or Jaidyn Stephenson, all looked dangerous as Collingwood played virtually the entire last quarter in its forward territory.

It was a massive 26 inside 50s to just seven in the final term, and 15 hit-outs to just three as Grundy powered all over a very tired and sore Port pair in Ryder and Westhoff, party time for the big men, too.

Port Adelaide may have trudged from the ground wondering just how all that effort had still resulted in a thumping 51-point defeat. The answer is simply that its opponent was prepared to expend even more effort and for more than three quarters.

And if that doesn’t convince the Power of the sort of standards required to be a major player at the pointy end of the season, having a few September weekends off while yesterday’s opponent is still playing should do the trick.

COLLINGWOOD 4.2 9.7 10.11 17.13 (115)
PORT ADELAIDE 4.1 7.2 9.4 10.4 (64)
GOALS – Collingwood: Stephenson 2, Phillips 2, Mihocek 2, De Goey 2, Sier, Varcoe, Adams, Oxley, Sidebottom, Cox, Grundy, Mayne, Thomas. Port Adelaide: Ryder 3, Boak 2, Westhoff, Watts, Polec, R.Gray, S.Gray.
BEST – Collingwood: Adams, Grundy, Pendlebury, Sidebottom, Mayne, Maynard. Port Adelaide: Motlop, Boak, Westhoff, Wines, Polec, R.Gray.
UMPIRES: Dalgleish, Nicholls, Fleer
CROWD: 46,286 at the MCG

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