By PETER CORNWALL
It’s fifth versus sixth and there’s only one win between them, so clearly this is an important game.
North, a pre-season premiership fancy, has only been in the five once this season – after Round 3 – while Port has been in it since Round 5.
But that will all change if the Roosters can claim the W at Prospect. When these sides met at Alberton in Round 7 Port sealed the win with a Taj Schofield goal in the 28th minute of the last quarter.
These sides would have been disappointed with their most recent efforts. As the race for the finals tightens up, the Roosters were beaten by Glenelg by 23 points, while Port was stung by a 41-point loss at the hands of Sturt.
But North’s numbers against the Bays suggested it should have done better, winning the clearances 48-35 and having 63 inside-50s to 44. Campbell Combe’s numbers continue to be big – he had 16 kicks, 13 handballs, 12 tackles and nine clearances – but the Roosters will be looking to make more of their chances against Port.
The one stat the Magpies dominated against the Blues was in hit-outs, with big Sam Hayes continuing his stellar season with 49 of them. But the standout for Port was silky-killed forward Dylan Williams. Port managed just seven goals but Williams showed what a bright future he has by bagging six of them, from snaps, by dodging and weaving and marking impressively.
There have been a handful of outstanding hard workers who have been fighting a tough battle to lift the Doggies over the past few years but under Paul Thomas there are others standing up. And it’s making a difference.
With Justin Hoskin on the sidelines, suspended for the second time this year, it was Nick Gillard who made an impact against West. After the Bloods kicked the first two goals at Elizabeth and the Dogs were goalless at quarter-time, Gillard, promoted from the reserves, banged on five goals in the next two terms in a matchwinning burst.
Travis and Jarrod Schiller, of course, were big contributors, while Kyle Presbury continued his impressive season, highlighted by a superb snapped goal, but rebounding defenders Matthew Neagle and Dylan Weaver played crucial roles, while recruit Harry Grant sealed the deal to great celebration with the last goal of the game.
The Legs would have enjoyed their bye after a strong victory against South that left it only a win behind the third-placed Panthers.
Everyone at The Parade will be feeling much better about everything after Mitch Grigg showed he was well-and-truly back after his stint in the reserves with a masterclass that netted 179 Dream Team points for 34 disposals, 12 marks, nine tackles and three goals. Grigg admitted it “was a bit of a shock” being demoted. The way he’s bounced back isn’t.
Finishing off. It doesn’t matter how much you have the ball if you don’t make the most of your chances.
It’s something West coach Brad Gotch and Adelaide boss Mick Godden have lamented this year. But while Gotch was disappointed the Bloods hadn’t used the ball better in a hard-fought loss to the Bulldogs, Godden was pleased his men made the most of their chances to end a run of five losses by upsetting Sturt.
Finally there was reward for effort as Adelaide, which Godden said had previously been lacking the polish to finish off good passages of play, slammed on nine unanswered goals from time-on in the first quarter to midway through the third.
Ruckman Kieran Strachan continued to dominate the airways with 37 hit-outs and nine marks, while Jackson Hately again showed dash and class with 31 disposals.
Westies had plenty of the ball against Central but on vast Elizabeth Oval it didn’t produce the desired result. Perhaps they handballed too much – they had 192 kicks and 153 handballs (the Dogs had 205 and 104).
But there was plenty of endeavour and classy defender Elliot Dunkin earned 35 touches, while Kaine Stevens and Jordon Boyle had 60 between them. There are heaps of stats in footy these days but the only numbers that will matter to Gotch and Godden are the final points tallies on the scoreboard.
Martin Mattner has been wanting a four-quarter performance from his Double Blues and he sure got it against Port Adelaide.
It’s not often opposition teams have come away from Alberton Oval having won every quarter but that’s what Mattner’s men achieved in providing the sort of consistent effort he has been looking for from his inexperienced side. On-ballers Tom Lewis and James Battersby and defender Casey Voss stood up, as usual, but the lift from everyone around them made all the difference.
Abe Davis spent more time in the midfield and was right back to his best with 15 contested possessions, eight clearances and eight tackles. Another great sign for Mattner was when his men led 10.4 to 5.6 in the third quarter, the Blues had 10 different goalkickers, also something that doesn’t happen too often. They ended with 11 players hitting the scoreboard in an impressive 41-point win.
After four losses by 10 points or less, Mattner will be hoping this is a turning point. If it is, finals aren’t off the radar after all.
The premiership table has tightened up considerably for injury-hit South Adelaide after its nine-point home loss to Norwood.
The Panthers slipped to third, one win clear of the fourth-placed Legs and, with the Blues back in town, their trip to Unley represents another tough challenge. Coach Jarrad Wright will want his men to make the most of their chances, too, after they dominated early against the Legs but led 1.5 to 1.0 late in the first quarter.
The Panthers were left to rue their wastefulness – and the fact they hadn’t given Joel Cross the celebration he deserved in his 200th game. Joseph Haines stood up with 10 marks, providing plenty of rebound. Can South rebound now?
It’s too early to be talking about this game being a grand final preview – as some SANFL fans are doing – but it certainly is a greatly-anticipated clash between the top two sides.
Between the past two premiers. And a match-up between the two form teams of the competition, the Tigers 10 out of 10 so far and the Eagles having won their past four games. To even up the odds, it’s at the second-placed Eagles’ ground.
Both defences have been making it difficult for the opposition. The Eagles have averaged just 41 points against in the past four games, with State backman James Rowland thwarting plenty of Port Adelaide attacks with nine marks and 24 touches.
At the Bay, Tigers co-captains Chris Curran and Max Proud were inspirational against North, snaring 17 marks and providing 16 rebound-50s between them. Watch out for Eagles accumulator James Tsitas and Glenelg’s gutsy Matthew Snook in what will be a ripper battle between two dynamic and deep midfields.
It’s no surprise Tsitas leads the league in possessions, averaging 29 per game. He actually improved on that as the Eags crunched Port by 68 points, collecting 16 kicks and 25 handballs. Snook copped some early attention against the Roosters but do you reckon that stopped him?
Seemingly thriving on it, he racked up 13 kicks and 21 handballs in the Bays’ hard-fought 23-point win. Who has the biggest influence in the clinches might prove decisive. Or maybe it will come down to who makes the most of their chances.
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