By ZAC MILBANK
Port Adelaide survived a brave fightback from Glenelg to book a berth in the 2019 Statewide Super League Grand Final in a thrilling Second Semi-Final at Adelaide Oval on Sunday.
Leading for the majority of the match, the Magpies saw their advantage evaporate midway through the final term only to wrestle back the lead to win by four points in front of the passionate black-and-white army.
Coming off a strong finish to the Qualifying Final, Matt Lokan’s men jumped out of the blocks when twin towers Todd Marshall and Billy Frampton kicked truly inside the opening five minutes.
Featuring in their first finals match since the 2011 Elimination decider, the Bays were forced to play catch-up football as Port threatened to take control of the contest through the hard work of Willem Drew and Joe Atley in the centre square.
The Pies’ advantage never stretched beyond three goals, as Atley missed a set shot 31 minutes into the third quarter to give his side a 16-point lead heading into the final change.
A stirring message at three-quarter time from coach Mark Stone seemed to be just the tonic as the Tigers kicked the first goal of the fourth term when Brad Close soccered a loose ball off the ground from 15m.
Luke Reynolds then took a courageous mark running back with the flight before handballing over the top to Darcy Bailey who in turn handballed over to Josh Scott in the goal square, who trimmed the deficit to just four points.
Then star Glenelg onballer Luke Partington – his team’s leading disposal-winner with 23 – crumbed a spoil, dodged around an opponent and kicked on the run from 35m to give his side the lead for the first time 11 minutes into the final stanza.
It didn’t take long for Port to take the lead back though, when Marshall and Frampton combined again with the former marking in the goal square to put his team four points up 14 minutes in.
Former Tiger Tobin Cox then marked strongly at the front of a one-on-one contest to earn a set shot 21 minutes in. He silenced his doubters by calmly booting a goal to stretch the margin to 10 points.
Reynolds soon soared for a high-flying chest mark 35m out and nailed his set shot but time was the Tigers’ enemy as they got sent to next Sunday’s Preliminary Final against Adelaide.
Port defenders Trent McKenzie and Jarrod Lienert led the way in the back half to tally 53 disposals and 14 marks between them while Atley and Drew finished with 22 possessions each.
Magpies captain Cam Sutcliffe, who curtailed Adelaide’s Patrick Wilson in the Qualifying Final, was able to quell the influence of Partington during the middle of the match while also kicking a fine left-foot snap from the boundary line in the third term.
Sam Mayes was sidelined by a cut to his head but he appeared to be the only injury concern for Port, which now has a week off to prepare for the title-decider.
The Tigers will be sweating on the fitness of Ken Farmer Medallist Liam McBean, who was sporting a heavy ice pack on his hamstring after booting three goals before half-time.
Partington and Matt Snook, who kicked his team’s first goal of the game, chalked up 45 disposals between them in the middle while Marlon Motlop provided his touch of class with 20 disposals and a miracle snap from the scoreboard pocket which bounced through the goal square.
Glenelg ruckman Jesse White battled hard throughout the day spending the majority of the afternoon in the centre square to finish with 21 disposals, 21 hit outs and six inside 50s.
PORT 3.2 6.5 9.8 11.10 (76)
GLENELG 2.3 5.3 7.4 11.6 (72)
LEADING DISPOSALS – Port: McKenzie 28, Lienert 25, Atley, Drew 22, Ladhams 20, Woodcock 17, Farrell, Trengove, Garner.
Glenelg: Patrington 23, Snook 22, White 21, Motlop 20, Agnew 17, Bradley, Close, Gould, Nicholson 16.
GOALS – Port: Johnson 3, Marshall 2, Cox, Drew, Farrell, Frampton, Mayes, Sutcliffe.
Glenelg: McBean 3, Motlop 2, Bailey, Close, Partington, Reynolds, Scott, Snook.
UMPIRES – Jamie Broadbent, Michael Schramm, Rowan Hundertmark