Round 4 – Port Adelaide v Hawthorn: A Game of Two Halves, Four Quarters and One Left Hook

Football’s a funny old game. Take Saturday night’s Anzac Day clash in Adelaide between last year’s preliminary finalists Port Adelaide and Hawthorn. In the first half Port played as good a football they’d played for years, making the Hawks look second-rate in the process. Hawthorn’s engine room of Mitchell, Lewis and Hodge were reduced to mere spectators as Port thrilled the vast crowd with an action-packed brand of football that produced eight first quarter goals.

Port continued the scoreboard dominance in the second quarter, doubling the Hawks’ score. But a side of the quality of Hawthorn simply cannot be contained for four quarters. After half time Port had a real and immediate battle on their hands to hold the brown and gold at bay. In fact the ball seemed permanently ensconced in the Hawthorn forward line for much of that time.

Port weren’t allowed to run the ball from end to end like the first half; Hawthorn stationed numbers across the centre creating an almost impenetrable barrier. If Port were going to score it was going to take some special efforts. This was a game that cemented the belief that while Port had struggled in the opening three rounds of the season, they were far from the spent also-rans that some media folk had already suggested. Paddy Ryder, late of Essendon with no real pre-season match practice behind him was sensational – creating goals, scoring them and providing a one grab marking focus. Brad Ebert, an early Brownlow Medal favourite, was again is terrific best, giving Port run and muscle. Chad Wingard, a season slow-starter got early centre clearances and showed just how valuable he is to the side with Ollie Wines and Robbie Gray sitting on the pine.

But the telling sign that Port had finally got their premiership tilt under full swing didn’t come when they were flying in the first half, but came late in the last quarter when Port circa-2010/11 would have surrounded the game to a rampaging, better performing opponent. Not Saturday night. They dug deep, held firm and persisted against a surging tide.

The bearded, Grizzly Adams lookalike Justin Westhoff held firm on the last line of defence, and halted several Hawk thrusts.

Port won the game with a thrilling, irresistible 30 minutes of football in the first quarter, and a defiant burst of grit in the last 30 minutes. In between, Hawthorn were terrific, pulling out all stops and against the backdrop of injuries.

Like last year’s preliminary final it was a game that, had it gone any longer, a different history would have been written. But no football game goes on indefinitely. Port knew that last September, and Hawthorn learnt that on Saturday night. A game of two halves, four quarters and a left hook from football’s angriest coach sealed a memorable night in the city of churches, where life is far from sedate or peaceful. A 50,000 strong crowd, a raucous atmosphere and action on and off the field again set Adelaide Oval aside as the place to watch football in 2015.

These two clubs will meet again in September, and if you’re a fan of either or a complete neutral, pray that it is on grand final day.





  1. daniel flesch says

    Nice work , Chris.

  2. Chris,
    I live in Brisbane. I don’t have Fox or any other internet service.
    Gold Coast against GWS was the televised game.
    I listened to Port and Hawthorn on the radio.
    Knew the Hawks would respond.
    Happy they did.
    Hopefully they’re wore out when they face North this week.

  3. Peter Fuller says

    This was a superb match and your report does it justice, accurate and perceptive. I don’t usually watch full games on the box, keep an eye on the scores, switch between two games when they’re running simultaneously, but I was riveted by this contest. Both teams emerge with credit, Port that they had (just) enough players still willing their bodies to make the effort that they scarcely believed themselves capable of, the Hawks for their belief that even with the odds stacked against them, they could still force the contest into the fifteenth round.
    I then watched the last half of Freo v Sydney, and saw a quite similar contest. The difference was that Sydney got to a winning position, but the Dockers had enough spirit to deny them. Hawthorn had needed everything to go their way in the last fifteen minutes, and Port mustered sufficient resistance; Freo were able to launch a counter-attack.
    There is a frightening gulf between the intensity of the two Saturday night matches and the game in Wellington where my emotional commitment was engaged.

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