Blues win ugly, while Port remain enigmas.

Port Power have been a thorough enigma since they joined the AFL. Hell, they should just be called The Enigmas; it’s an improvement on Power. They might get a new theme song out of the change. What rhymes with enigma. Errr… stigma? Maybe not.

It took them a relatively short time to become serious on field contenders, but they squandered a succession of promising seasons with insipid finals campaigns. When they finally broke through in 2004, they typically denied a Lions side which seemed on the verge of sealing a 4th successive flag.

Little has changed in recent times. A newly rejuvenated side reached the Grand Final in 2007, promising much. But progress since then has foundered in the wake of some bewilderingly inconsistent efforts. Choco Williams remains one of the quirkier personalities in the AFL, and appeared to spend last season at war with a club leadership which didn’t seem to want him, but couldn’t bring itself to swing the axe.

Dean Laidley’s arrival as assistant coach seemed the next instalment in an ongoing drama, but in spite of everything, the team has shaken off the recent funk and made a promising start to this season. If office politics isn’t an issue, then the Williams/Laidley combo would seem to present a formidable match day proposition.

With all this in mind, and in the wake of a great Monday night win over the Saints, this fixture screamed danger game for Carlton. A shortened recovery period and a significant let-down factor were precisely the sort of hurdles the Blues have stumbled at in recent years. Both forward lines resembled each other, with a mix of nimble Port forwards offering the prospect that the Blues may get some of their own medicine.

Consequently, it was little surprise to see a flat Carlton side dominated in the opening 10 minutes. They were fortunate that Port failed to capitalise on their opportunities.

Setanta O’hAilpin and Alipate Carlile were providing one of the more exotically named match-ups in AFL history, and it was the Irishman who out-marked his opponent to open the goal tally. Both sides then exchanged goals in a free flowing first stanza. A tremendous Joseph defensive tackle stopped a Power shot on goal, and saw the Carlton rebound finish with a Simpson goal to snatch a fortunate ¼ time lead, 4-1 to 3-3.

Skippers Judd and Cassisi were leading the way for their respective teams, with Houlihan continuing in his guise as forward tag and quelling The Chad. Murphy was enjoying the close company of Kane about as much as most do when visited by Cornes the Younger. Armfield was well on his way to ruining Pearce’s afternoon. The mercurial Motlop had the compliment of Gibb’s company deep in Port’s forward line. The coaches had obviously poured over their homework in the lead up to this game.

Port started Term 2 like they meant to take charge. Unanswered goals to Schultz, Ebert and Motlop saw them lead by 14. Carlton’s play was static, and many in Navy Blue remained unsighted. Judd was winning the ball around the ground, but Cassisi and Kane were winning in the clinches and at centre bounces, where Kreuzer was battling Brogan’s elbows and knees.

A Houlihan mark and goal seemed to spark Carlton just when they needed it. Simpson and Carrazzo lifted, whist Russell remained resolute down back. Yarran plucked a superb one-handed grab, but missed the shot. Then Motlop marked deep in the pocket, took on the Gibbs tackle, ran straight through it, and strolled to the goal line as opponents were left flat footed.

It was the Blues who responded to this act of bravado, and when Waite marked by the goal post, Carlton was back in front. It didn’t last long. As the siren beckoned, Judd was crunched by 3 opponents, and the spillage went to Gray who reclaimed the ½ time lead, 8-5 to 8-4.

The Power policy was obviously to rough the Carlton skipper up at every opportunity. Sadly, the umps seemed the only ones not to notice.

The second half began tight and niggly; just how the likes of Brogan, Surjan and The Chad prefer it. Schultz grabbed Judd off the ball, to gift Yarran a goal from the subsequent 50 M penalty. Then Houlihan returned the compliment and The Chad goaled. Carlton tempers frayed, and Russell gave away yet another 50 for Davenport to goal, and Port to lead again. Hitchcock is built like a twig, but he was a persistently nippy nuisance. When he and Surjan goaled, Port again threatened to take control.

Carlton were now rattled. Waite didn’t help matters by trailing an elbow to collect Davenport, earning himself a report. When Yarran subsequently gobbed off at the umps, Logan was presented with a shot to claim a four goal lead. He missed badly, and the Blues took the ball from the kick in for Houlihan to kick a steadying goal.

Then Cassisi was set up under a hospital pass and crunched. His influence waned from that moment.

Another area that had started to go decisively Carlton’s way was the ruck, where the bigger bodied Jacobs was matching Brogan, allowing Kreuzer to romp around the ground and increasingly impose himself. When Murphy fed him the ball running into goal, his spilled mark seemed momentarily disastrous, but it proved to be a sign of greater things to come.

By ¾ time the Blues had contained the deficit to 9 points, 11-10 to 13-7. Yet it still seemed a daunting task. The hamstrung Lucas had left Carlton one short for the majority of the match, and nervous supporters were thinking of that short break. Things seemed poised for the Power to steam home in front of an adoring crowd.

But Carlton seem to have rediscovered some steel, and they were having nothing of such theories. Instead, it was their turn to dominate play, yet miss opportunities. Setanta and Scotland goaled to seize the lead, and the Blues piled on the behinds as they now threatened to run away from their opposition.

The dam wall shook, but wasn’t breached until Gibbs made a decisive run from defence and fed Kreuzer for his 2nd. Thereafter, Motlop seemed to personify much that ails the Power. One minute he’s taking a hanger on the wing, the next he refuses to play the percentages and coughs the ball up horribly with a mongrel torp.

Kreuzer was dominant in the last 40 minutes of this game, and he appropriately clinched the result when he snapped his 3rd. This would be close to his best game yet, as he was virtually an extra goal-kicking midfielder. Excitingly for Blues fans, he looms as a future colossus.

Judd continued his purple patch of form, despite a considerable battering. Most encouragingly, he now has a growing support cast turning up on a regular basis.

Flashy wins against top sides are exciting, but if a team really wants to put a season together, then wins like this one are vital. Good sides know how to win ugly.

The Power will be left lamenting crucial missed chances. They certainly threatened to take control at several stages. But the big issue for them is the last quarter fadeout. With the game there for the taking, they hardly gave a yelp. Too many in their number fluctuate too wildly in their performance. At 5-3, it’s hardly desperation stakes, but Choco and Junkyard have much to ponder.

Carlton  4.1  8.4  11.10  17. 16 (118)
Port Adelaide  3.3  8.5  13.7  14.8 (92)

GOALS
Carlton:
O’hAilpin 3, Kreuzer 3, Houlihan 2, Waite 2, Yarran 2, Carrazzo, Garlett, Simpson, Judd, Scotland
Port Adelaide: Salopek 3, Motlop 2, Hitchcock 2, Westhoff, Schulz, Ebert, Gray, C Cornes, Davenport, Surjan

BEST

Carlton– Kreuzer, Judd, Houlihan, Simpson, Carrazzo, Russell, Gibbs, Armfield

Port– K Cornes, Cassisi, Davenport, Salopek, Hitchcock

VOTES: 3- Kreuzer  2- Judd  1- K Cornes (even though Murphy got away in the last term)

About John Butler

John Butler has fled the World's Most Livable Car Park and now breathes the rarefied air of the Ballarat Plateau. For his sins, he has been a Carlton member for more than 30 years.

Comments

  1. Tony Robb says:

    John,
    Im actually starting think the Blues can finish top four. With 3 relatively easy games (compared the the past 3 weeks)it should see the boys at 8 and 3 mid seaason almost certainties to make the 8. That said, like the Saints, the Blues are a shoulder or hamstring awaty from mediocrity should Judd gets seriously hurt. He has been the defining change over the past 5 weeks. Ohter blokes have stepped up and our defence is looking more solid by the week but Judd is the man.

    cheers
    Tony

  2. John Butler says:

    Hard to argue with Judd’s importance Tony.

    Although, the most heartening development has been the better all-round defensive focus (usually). This was essential if we are to become serious contenders.

    I think Jamison is also vital. We don’t really have anyone for the gun forwards otherwise.

    We’ve certainly adapted to the post-Fev climate faster than I thought we might, but I wouldn’t be betting the house on anything yet.

    Cheers

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