Just a month ago Port Adelaide was on top of the AFL ladder with dreams of a home Final all but in their keeping. Since then, losses to Sydney, Adelaide and Essendon have seen the Power drop to third on the AFL Ladder and in danger of dropping out of the Top Four. Coming up against Richmond would have seemingly been just what Port needed, with the Tigers - despite coming off a two game winning streak against lowly Brisbane and St Kilda – not yet having beaten a team above them on the Ladder all season. With the game being played at Etihad Stadium with the roof closed, most experts were tipping that Port’s extra leg speed would prove too much for an inconsistent Tiger outfit that had struggled against the quicker teams in 2014. The optimistic Tiger fan might have pointed to Richmond’s strong record against Port in recent times, winning two of their last four games with a draw in between. Nathan Foley started as the substitute in the green vest for Richmond while fellow on-baller Kane Mitchell assumed the same role for Port Adelaide.
Richmond chose a strategy of playing man on man to combat the pace of the speedy Power outfit and for the first eight minutes the game was a very tight affair with both teams attacking the ball hard. The in-form Robbie Gray goaled first for the Power at the nine minute mark after uncharacteristic misses from both team’s key forwards in Jay Schulz and Jack Riewoldt. Port was doing most of the attacking but an opportunist goal from Richmond’s Nick Vlastuin kept the Tigers right in the contest. Just a few minutes later a string of tidy foot passes led to a Brett Deledio mark right on the 50 meter arc. Deledio's shot split the middle to give Richmond the lead for the first time. Port did manage to break outside as the quarter wore on but were let down in front of goal by ex-Tiger Matt White who missed twice. Late in the quarter a strong mark and goal to Richmond rookie Sam Lloyd was followed by an interception from a botched Port clearance, Ricky Petterd finishing well to give Richmond an 11 point lead. A late free kick gave Port the final forward thrust, resulting in a smart crumbing goal to White just seconds before quarter time. After an entertaining first quarter, Richmond led by a slim five point margin.
Port wasted no time in getting on the board in the second quarter with Captain Travis Boak goaling directly from a center clearance. Quiet in the first quarter, Richmond’s Trent Cotchin was starting to get his hands on the ball early in the second. Jack Riewoldt was also having an influence playing across half forward, and when his long kick found Ty Vickery in the goal square the resultant goal had Richmond back in front. Riewoldt then bobbed up for a solid contested mark and goal from 35 meters out and the Tigers were holding their own against the fancied Power. Anthony Miles for Richmond was getting plenty of the ball in tight, and the Tigers were doing better in winning the contested footy - paramount when playing the speedy Port team. Lloyd marked and kicked his second goal for Richmond at the 12 minute mark before Sam Gray got in behind the Tiger defense to mark and goal for the Power. The one on one defensive style employed by Richmond was paying dividends as the pressure applied to the Port defense was causing multiple turnovers. Cotchin goaled after a free kick before Daniel Jackson bombed a beauty from 50 meters out to give Richmond the biggest lead of the game at 25 points. Things were starting to look grim for the Power when Dustin Martin combined with Vickery who hit Petterd up forward running towards an open goal. Petterd almost kicked the ball out of the stadium - much to the delight of the success-starved Tiger cheer squad - as the lead stretched to 31 points late in the second quarter. A Vickery miss led to a change in momentum as Robbie Gray marked and goaled to keep the Power in touch. A desperate Cotchin then crumbed the football perfectly from the pack before handballing to Martin who streamed towards goal, finishing the attack with a deft check side goal to retain the 31 point Tiger lead. It was raining goals at Etihad as Wingard snapped a beauty for the Power, then a terrible error by Steve Morris in the Tiger defense saw him caught holding the ball. Hamish Hartlett played the advantage and banged through a late goal that would have had Richmond coach Damien Hardwick seething as the Power remained in touch at half time, trailing by just 20 points.
As the third quarter commenced young Tiger Anthony Miles, having a massive impact in clearances, had Port’s chief tagger, Kane Cornes moved on to him - a big complement for the rookie playing in his first season for Richmond after being delisted by GWS in 2013. It was clear that Port coach Ken Hinkley was trying to arrest the dominance Richmond was holding in contested possessions, in an attempt to get first use of the football for his speedy outside runners. Richmond on the other hand would continue to get the ball into their tall forwards, knowing Port was undermanned down back with key forwards Trengove and Carlisle missing through injury. Hinkley looked to have pulled a masterstroke early as Port had first use of the football, leading to goals from Matthew Broadbent and Robbie Gray. The Tigers' 20 point half time lead was reduced to just nine within five minutes of the restart. With Port looking to have gained the ascendancy, Richmond fought back. Solid tackling pressure allowed them to win some turnovers resulting in quality attacking moves. Riewoldt continued his excellent game with a mark and goal then surprise packet Lloyd repeated the dosage for his third goal of the game. Port managed to open up the game with Jared Polec goaling from the center bounce in a matter of seconds. Polec was again in the thick of it, handballing to Broadbent who goaled from 50 meters out and the margin was once again back to nine points. Despite Richmond’s hard work, they could not shake the Power as their open style of play made for an entertaining game for around 22,000 spectators. At the 19 minute mark, Dustin Martin, having the best season of his young career, found Shane Edwards who marked and goaled for the Tigers. Shortly after, Richmond lost midfielder Reece Conca who suffered concussion after a nasty head clash and had to be stretchered from the ground. At three quarter time the Tigers held a tenuous 13 point lead.
With a Top Two finish on the line, the Power had to come home hard while the Tigers needed the first goal to keep some pressure off. They got their wish as Martin found an unlikely target in former Port back man Troy Chaplin who kicked truly and celebrated in style. Chaplin was up forward having followed the loose Port player in Justin Westhoff, being utilized as the spare in defense. Schultz replied for Port but it was Chaplin again, snapping truly to keep the Tigers 21 points in front at the 13 minute mark. Vickery added another six pointer as Tiger fans celebrated what was looking like a win against the odds. Two quick goals - including a sensational solo effort and Goal of the Year contender from ex-Tiger Matt White - gave the Power a sniff of victory but the Tigers were having none of it. In a very solid four quarter performance Richmond continued Port’s recent run of misery with a 20 point win.
The underdog Tiger win has put a serious dent in Port Adelaide’s Top Four chances - deemed crucial for a "real" shot at the Premiership Flag - while Richmond can at least be satisfied that the club has the player list that can match it with a Finals contender. The game was won on the inside, with Richmond proving too strong and committed in the one on one contests. Alex Rance, playing his 100th game in the yellow and black, blanketed in-form Port forward Jay Schulz while Westhoff and Wingard had little impact. Power Captain Travis Boak was best on ground while Richmond had excellent midfield workers in Miles, Ellis, Martin and Cotchin. Riewoldt, also celebrating his milestone 150th game, was superb all day, ably assisted up forward by Lloyd and Vickery.
The first half of the split Round 18 will see Port take on Melbourne in Adelaide next week while Richmond will travel west to take on the West Coast Eagles in the second part of Round 18 a week later.
Scoreboard Richmond 4.2 11.6 14.7 19.12 (126) Port Adelaide 3.3 8.4 12.6 16.10 (106) Best Players Richmond: Miles, Cotchin, Deledio, Rance, Chaplin, Martin, Riewoldt Port Adelaide: Boak, R.Gray, Cornes, Wines
Article last changed on Tuesday, July 15, 2014 - 9:45 AM EDT