Port Adelaide travelled across the Nullarbor for the second time, this year to face the Fremantle Dockers, a side who they have not beat at home from their past six home and away attempts.
With the cl8bs occupying eighth and ninth on the ladder, and separated by barely two percent, this was an important game for both sides as they look to secure a spot in the eight.
Fremantle came into the game off the back of two very close, last minute wins against Brisbane and Collingwood, but had lost key players in Lobb and Pearce. Cerra was also out due to illness. Port was missing Broadbent and welcomed back Hamish Hartlett who had not played for over a year. Add that to the Fremantle ins of their rookie ruckman Darcy along with Logue and Stephen Hill who both had not played in some time and the game was difficult to predict.
It was a tight, seesawing contest throughout, but Fremantle, who have won more final quarters in 2019 than any other side, were able to run away with the contest in the last 10 minutes to win 100-79.
Here are the points of interest:
The Return of stars
Much was made of Hartlett’s return prior to the game. He had not played in since round five, 2018 after rupturing his ACL and further injury to his hamstring delayed his comeback.
Hartlett’s return was with a vengeance and he was everywhere in the first quarter, amassing 12 touches off half back. He tired a bit as the game went on, but still ended with 23 touches in a quality return to footy.
Stephen Hill was kept to 13 games last year as he suffered a string of soft tissue injuries, resulting in quad surgery in December. He was quiet in his return, but when he did get the ball, he showed he has not lost any pace or the silky skills on both left and right foot. He eased his way into the game but was most prominent in the third quarter with a lace out right-footed kick to hit Brennan Cox on the chest.
Flat Freo at the start
The game started slowly and lacked energy as the two sides worked each other out. Port’s first three goals came from awful Fremantle turnovers which had supporters groaning and remembering poor performances that were supposed to be left in the rebuild. In the first 15 minutes or so, it appeared this game was going to be a blow out in favour of Port Adelaide, who seemed to be able to control the ball with ease.
Channelling his uncle Phil, Brandan Matera scored a classy goal against the flow in the first quarter. Matera picked up a rolling ball from deep in the pocket and through traffic, kicked around his body for a miraculous goal. In a return from a small dip in form, Matera ended up kicking 3.1.
The Fyfe and Boak Show
Footy pundits will remember back when Fyfe ran head to head against Dangerfield, with both players picking up leather poisoning on the Adelaide Oval.
This battle was similar. Two similarly skilled, genuine superstars of the competition shook hands at the start of the game and then didn’t see each other again. Port elected to not tag Fyfe and whilst Ross Lyon moved Conca onto Boak for a time, it was a soft tag at best.
Both players went about their business with absolute quality. 37 touches to 36, 10 clearances to Fyfe, eight to Boak. It was a terrific performance from both champions as they lifted their respective teams when needed. A classic duel worth the price of admission itself.
You can decide who was better.
Lycett and Ryder v Darcy
Darcy, playing in just his third game for the year, was given a monster task to ruck against the dynamic duo of Ryder and Darcy. The two Port rucks dominated their rookie opponent for most of the day, as Darcy looked completely out of his league. Ryder kicked the first two goals of the match and Lycett was influential around the ground.
However, come the final quarter, Sean Darcy lifted and monstered his two superiors in the contest. Freo’s midfield were treated to silver-service that they hadn’t had since they last played with Sandilands.
For Fremantle fans, he went from zero to hero in no time flat; for Port fans they’ll be wondering why their two good ruckman allowed Darcy to have such an influence late.
Walters the superstar
If he hadn’t already, Michael Walters has announced himself as one of the best players in the competition and probably the biggest clutch player going around. Of his six goals, none were more important than his fifth, which broke a scoring drought in the final quarter. With the game on the line, Walters stood up for the third week in a row to give Fremantle the win. While it wasn’t a final minute shot this time, his goal midway through the quarter was a turning point of the match and the flood gates opened from there.
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