Australia

Port turn on the afterburners to overpower Cats in fierce opening final

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Port Adelaide turned on their famed afterburners and made Geelong pay the ultimate price for persistent poor finishing by booking their first preliminary final berth since 2014.

Top of the ladder since round one, the Power, fittingly, are the first team to progress to the penultimate week of the season after impressively absorbing everything the Cats could throw at them.

Xavier Duursma of the Power and Mark Blicavs of the Cats collide.

Xavier Duursma of the Power and Mark Blicavs of the Cats collide.Credit:Getty Images

Port led at every change, but it wasn't until their dominant third quarter that they really looked on top, after a first-half arm wrestle between two teams desperate to shake off a long tale of recent finals woes.

Tom Rockliff was magnificent in his 205th game - incredibly, his first final, while Steven Motlop, who bagged three goals from his first three kicks (previously he had never scored a goal against his old side), provided the X-factor.

The toughness of Sam Powell-Pepper in the first quarter and first-time All-Australian Darcy Byrne-Jones in the second set some fierce examples against a Geelong charge, led early by skipper Joel Selwood, before his influence declined in the second half after an injury to his finger.

Brad Ebert kicked two for Port Adelaide.

Brad Ebert kicked two for Port Adelaide.Credit:Getty Images

Brad Ebert's bomb from 50 metres with the half-time siren ringing gave Port a one-point lead and momentum after Selwood's fine goal moments earlier had kept the visitors in touch.

Powell-Pepper matched Selwood's thirst for the contest early while Port defender Byrne-Jones left fellow All-Australian Patrick Dangerfield with a bloody gash above his left eye in a ferocious collision, which epitomised a tough opening half.

First blood: Patrick Dangerfield was forced from the ground in the second term.

First blood: Patrick Dangerfield was forced from the ground in the second term.Credit:Getty Images

Dangerfield's three-bounce running goal with 21 seconds left, from the centre of the arena to the goal square with Tom Jonas in hopeless pursuit, was the besieged Cats' only moment of third-quarter joy and reduced the Power's advantage to 14 points at three-quarter-time after the home side, led by Rockliff, flexed their muscle.

Rhys Stanley goaled early in the fourth to make it a seven-point ball-game before Pete Ladhams' quick reply - off a deft Motlop tap-pass - stymied Geelong once again.

When Todd Marshall converted truly in the dying minutes - after it appeared his night was over when he hurt his shoulder in the first term - the Cats' fate was sealed.

Port's Tom Rockliff is brought down by Patrick Dangerfield and Gary Ablett.

Port's Tom Rockliff is brought down by Patrick Dangerfield and Gary Ablett.Credit:Getty Images

BRAVE XAVE

Running with the flight of the footy, Power's Xavier Duursma, all 186 centimetres and 73 kilograms of him, was smashed - fairly - by the massive 198 centimetre, 100 kilogram frame of Cat Mark Blicavs in an aerial contest inside Port's attacking arc.

Duursma copped a triple-whammy - hit high and hard mid-air, then landed on by Blicavs and slamming his head to the turf.

Duursma was prone for some time before being helped off the field and afforded a standing ovation from the Port faithful, who recognised the value of his selfless courage.

TOM OFF TARGET
Last time these two sides met, Coleman Medallist Tom Hawkins bagged six goals and a career-best seven contested marks in the Cats' 60-point demolition job at Metricon Stadium.

Hawkins, who towelled Tom Clurey up on that occasion, this time had Trent McKenzie as a direct opponent and threatened several times to make mincemeat of the match-up.

Tom Hawkins was dominant early but let down by inaccuracy.

Tom Hawkins was dominant early but let down by inaccuracy.Credit:Getty Images

The big Geelong spearhead had a shot that didn't register a score in the opening minute, missed another set shot later in the first term and yet another, a sitter, early in the second stanza.

By the time Hawkins, who kicked 0.4 in last year's qualifying final against Collingwood, lined up for his fourth set shot, the prior misses were in his head and he inexplicably, and unsuccessfully, played on with an errant left-foot snap around the corner.

His fifth attempt - and fourth behind - was a toughie before his sixth behind, another play-on snap in the last minute, told the whole, sad story for the Cats, who frittered away the double chance, literally, off their own boot.

PORT ADELAIDE 2.1 4.2 7.4 9.4 (58)

GEELONG 1.4 3.7 4.8 5.12 (42)

GOALS
Port Adelaide: Motlop 3, Ebert 2, Rozee, Marshall, Dixon, Ladhams.
Geelong: Stanley 2, Tuohy, Selwood, Dangerfield.

BEST
Port Adelaide: Rockliff, Wines, Motlop, Ebert, Boak, Powell-Pepper.
Geelong: Henderson, Dangerfield, Parfitt, Guthrie, Selwood, Tuohy.

INJURIES


Port Adelaide: Marshall (shoulder), Duursma (concussion).

UMPIRES
Foot, Chamberlain, Fleer.

VENUE
Adelaide Oval.

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