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Proud Hawks hold the line and hang on in hectic finish

Jubilation for Hawthorn’s Taylor Duryea (left) and Jarman Impey (centre) as the siren sounds on the Hawks’ three-point win. Photo: GETTY IMAGES

Proud Hawks hold the line and hang on in hectic finish

Rohan Connolly    

Hawthorn is a phenomenally successful and proud club, one which doesn’t often end up the subject of unwanted records.

So having lost four games in a row just three times previously over the last 12 seasons, you already knew the prospect of that occurring again with a defeat at the hands of Port Adelaide in Launceston on Saturday would be a strong motivator.

You knew that falling two games outside the eight and behind a logjam of other finals contenders underlined just how critical was a win.

And you knew, even when the Hawks slipped four goals in arrears by quarter-time, that somehow, they weren’t done with yet, particularly given the part they had themselves played in their early problems with the opposition.

Port Adelaide had slammed on three first-quarter goals within two-and-a-half minutes, James Frawley under no pressure somehow contriving to kick straight to opponent Charlie Dixon, who sent Robbie Gray running into an open goal.

The next came courtesy of an ill-advised centring ball from the otherwise excellent Tom Mitchell, Port’s Jack Watts having no trouble with a snap which was the end product of the turnover.

When Gray made it two barely a minute later the Hawks were in trouble, and even more so after Watts snapped his second.

Mitchell finally got Hawthorn on the board after the first of what would be a deluge of 50-metre penalties for the afternoon, but the very busy Justin Westhoff answered soon enough after the slickest of handballs from Chad Wingard.

Port was sharp, Hawthorn as sloppy with its disposal as a Hawk outfit has looked for some time, hence a four-goal quarter-time lead. But the momentum swung almost as soon as the second quarter began.

Ruckman Ben McEvoy, more than breaking even against All-Australian Paddy Ryder, had the first within a minute of the restart. Paul Puopolo got his toe to some crumbs right on the goal line.

And now Port began to shoot itself in the foot thanks to its own ill-discipline. Mitchell had a second after Charlie Dixon conceded not one but two 50-metre penalties, the first for running through the protected area, the second for giving umpire Matthew Nicholls a mouthful to go on with.

Wingard dished off when he should have shot for some reason. And when former Port runner Jarman Impey dobbed one from 50 with the aid of a now-handy breeze at his back, Hawthorn had hit the front.

Port went to half-time leading the disposal count, the clearances, contested ball and tackles, but only level on the scoreboard.

With Mitchell again racking up the touches, Port Adelaide coach Ken Hinkley swung Sam Powell-Pepper away from and Mitchell and the previously ineffective Tom Rockliff on to the ball magnet. It worked, too, Mitchell after 21 first-half disposals held to only five in the third term.

But Hawthorn simply found other sources of drive. And more efficiency. Ricky Henderson stepped up. Jack Gunston, playing further afield, got busier. And the ageless Shaun Burgoyne, on a day when even the most competent of ball-handlers had their issues, not for the first time stood out with his class.

Port got back in front with Gray’s third goal. But with the aid of the breeze, the Power needed more than just that. And it didn’t get it.

Instead, McEvoy again crept forward with effect, a strong mark and conversion giving him his second goal and the Hawks the lead again. Burgoyne himself booted the next into the wind after using his body beautifully to hold off Powell-Pepper.

The Hawks picked their way forward with their trademark careful ball movement. At the same time, they denied the Power anything much, Port even with the breeze at their backs held to just eight inside 50s for the quarter.

With Hawthorn defenders James Sicily and Ryan Burton outstanding in repelling what Port attacks there were, and kicking into the wind in the last quarter, even a seven-point deficit might have seemed like plenty for the Power. More so once the Hawks had racked up the first 10 forward entries for the last term.

But finally Port found its strongest suit again. With the first attack, and a long bomb from Wingard, Watts ran in for his third goal. Luke Breust replied soon enough, but the Power kept coming.

Now Dixon, who’d had a pretty dirty day, chipped in with a big mark and goal from 50. Ollie Wines had found another gear.

When Gray worked his way to the front of a pack to mark and slip through his fourth goal, Port, against the run of play, the breeze, the numbers and seemingly logic, was five points up again with just under seven minutes left. But it was still going to take a monumental effort to hang on. And against the relentlessness of the Hawks, it couldn’t.

With just over four minutes left, Jarryd Roughead drew a free kick for too high only 25 metres out. He made no mistake, the Hawks a point up again.

They’d miss a couple of chances to seal it, Gunston and Breust scoring behinds, Impey booting out on the full. But the ball was now locked inside the Hawthorn forward 50. Four boundary throw-ins in succession wound down the clock, the siren heralding a critical win for the Hawks and a finals campaign still well and truly alive.

It’s been more than 30 years since commentator Peter McKenna used the line on almost a weekly basis, but it’s no less applicable today than it ever was even as the generations go by and the names change: “You just can’t write Hawthorn off”.

HAWTHORN 1.2 5.3 7.7 9.10 (64)
PORT ADELAIDE 5.2 5.3 6.6 9.7 (61)
GOALS – Hawthorn: Mitchell 2, McEvoy 2, Impey, Burgoyne, Puopolo, Breust, Roughead. Port Adelaide: Gray 4, Watts 3, Westhoff, Dixon.
BEST – Hawthorn: Burgoyne, Sicily, Gunston, Mitchell, McEvoy, Shiels, Burton. Port Adelaide: R. Gray, Westhoff, Jonas, Wines, Motlop.
REPORTS: Shaun Burgoyne (Haw) for rough conduct against Jared Polec (Port) during the first quarter.
Umpires: Gavine, Nicholls, Hosking
Crowd: 13,007 at University of Tasmania Stadium

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