Round 12 – Port Adelaide v Western Bulldogs: It’s a Fine Line Between Pleasure and Pain

Port Adelaide v Western Bulldogs

June 11th, 2016

RD 12

Adelaide Oval, Adelaide


There have been some great AFL matches this season, but the game of the year by some stretch happened last Saturday between two sides sharing a similar working class backgrounds, and a desire to reach the heights of September once again. Port Adelaide and the Western Bulldogs produced a game of great skill, fierce pressure and an unwillingness by either side to concede. It was a classic, fast, tough and thrilling.


Coming into Saturday’s game Port hadn’t beaten a top eight side this year. This was the scalp they needed, they wanted. Port’s last month has been good, but they’d lost close matches against Carlton and West Coast, two losses that weren’t helpful to their finals ambitions. The Bulldogs have been great this year, playing attacking football while keeping a tight defensive mindset. Under cool but sunny conditions, from the first bounce, this contest enthralled.


For much of the contest Port played, as they have done for the last four weeks, steadily intelligent impressive football. Their tackling was fantastic, one area of their game this year that’s been better than most clubs. Not content with one on one contests, Port set about gang tackling Bulldogs players with gusto and desire, creating turnovers and scoring opportunities. In a frenetic second quarter Port dominated the inside 50s, but were wayward in front of goal, something that would haunt them in the dying seconds of the match. But they were making chances, creating opportunities and had the Bulldogs under the sort of pressure they hadn’t experience too often in 2016. It was great stuff, but was it going to be enough?


A good, well-prepared side like the Bulldogs were never going to lay down – and they didn’t. Their efforts were equally tremendous, especially considering they’d lost Luke Dalhaus early in the game and were going very little out of Jake Stringer. But the Bulldogs were more efficient in front of goal. Port’s goals had an air of dogged persistence about them, whereas the Dogs seem to be able to isolate someone on a lead in front of goal and they’d usually convert. After half-time the question was what could Port do to halt the Dogs clear use of the ball up forward, and how could they isolate someone in their own forward line. Charlie Dixon, a crowd-puller on the football field was creating opportunities for Port’s small forwards and they responded, Chad Wingard breaking lose to kick two important goals and Aaron Young and Jake Neade continuing their excellent recent form. Dixon himself contributed two goals from tight angles and it seemed Port’s forward line would be able to kick a winning score, even if it was by less than conventional means.


At three quarter time Stringer was moved to a wing, temporarily gaining an advantage as first Jared Polec and then original match up Nathan Krakouer caught up with the change. But before that happened Stringer was instrumental in kicking the Bulldogs ahead with some clever running football. While Port had dominated play for much of the game it was the Bulldogs who pulled away with less than fifteen minutes remaining. Would Port have the energy left, after working so hard for three quarters, to mount another comeback. They did. But time was running out. When Young kicked another goal to get Port within three points only 17 seconds were left on the clock. It was all or nothing now for Port. In the end, time ran out.


This was an epic, fine game of football between two sides evenly matched. Irrespective on their respective ladder positions, the reality is very little separates the two sides.


The Bulldogs got the win, Port lost no admirers and the 40,000 plus crowd would have left knowing they’d seen a game of rare quality, a battle royale between two entertaining teams. But it is a fine line between pleasure and pain, and Port would no doubt have felt flat at the end. They’d given their all, but their all wasn’t quite enough on the day. But that’s football.



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