Port Adelaide pile on Saints' pain

Port Adelaide recovered from a tardy start to wear down St Kilda at Adelaide Oval, but their comfortable win was not without concern.

Key defender Tom Jonas, one of their best players this season, was forced off with a left knee injury after being tackled fairly by Jack Steele early in the third quarter.

Jonas will be further assessed on Monday, but early indications were not positive. He is most unlikely to play in next Sunday's match against Fremantle at Optus Stadium.

St Kilda's Seb Ross battles Port skipper Travis Boak.

St Kilda’s Seb Ross battles Port skipper Travis Boak.

The blow-out result came after one of the worst halves of AFL for a long time, but before we once again start talking about changes to the structure and rules, it had nothing to do with the current system. Both Port and St Kilda simply produced an incredibly low skills level, but fortunately responded well in the second half.

For two quarters we saw the Power miss eight of their 12 set shots including two out-on-the-full. Robbie Gray missed from 25 metres; Justin Westhoff even closer, both right in front. Power players fumbled and let the ball dribble through their legs. Their tackling was off.

The Saints missed four set shots in the first half – also easy misses – and their first goal didn't come until the 20 minute mark of the second term. They kicked their only other for the half two minutes later – both from David Armitage, who was one of the few players on the ground to play well at this stage.

A big pack flies at Adelaide Oval.

A big pack flies at Adelaide Oval.

The Saints lacked height up forward – they desperately needed to take marks there and put pressure on their opposition. Adding to this concern was that their transition moving from defence was not working, starving themselves of inside-50 entries.

Coaches Ken Hinkley and Alan Richardson and their assistants would have studied the stats at half-time, but they didn't mean a lot because of the dreadful number of turnovers. Perhaps the most alarming for the Saints was their kick-handball ratio seemed out of whack – 91-80 – which was a reflection of the amount of times they were trying to get out of trouble.

Port led by 18 points at half-time, and Richardson must have surely rued the opportunity to make a strong impact on the scoreboard when Port was well down on their form. In this place, visiting teams need to make the most of every opportunity they get, and the Saints let themselves down badly.

One strongly suspects the players received a rev-up at half-time as the intensity soared from the next bounce. Port was back to their instinctive best; goals came from Westhoff and Gray within two minutes of the third quarter and it was no nonsense stuff.

Of course, it was expected, but the great thing from an overall picture was that these lowly-ranked Saints also raised their level. Okay, they still lost, but in recent years they would have capitulated completely in these circumstances. Their end-to-end goal to Tim Membrey linked with a magnificent long kick by Jade Gresham early in the third was awesome.

Ultimately, the ferocity and quality play under pressure in this second half saved the contest. Obviously, the Power broke clear like a fifth-ranked side against the 15th placed Saints should, but there was strong opposition; the response by both sides was good. The Saints paid a much greater price for their turnovers.

Sam Powell-Pepper evades St Kilda's Jack Newnes.

Sam Powell-Pepper evades St Kilda’s Jack Newnes.

Port had to be pleased with the much improved performance of their big-name recruit Jack Watts. After being sent back to the SANFL for two weeks, he played with confidence and poise. He contributed to the goal list, and his teamwork was impressive.

Conversely, Jack Billings and David Armitage have struggled at times this season, but were terrific contributors for the Saints this time out.

Given the vastly different halves, it didn't take a lot for the players to stand out for four quarters.

PORT ADELAIDE 3.1 5.6 8.12 12.14 (86)
ST KILDA 0.5 2.6 4.6 7.8 (50)

GOALS: Port Adelaide: Dixon 4, Watts, Boak, Westhoff 2, R. Gray, Ryder. St Kilda: Armitage 3, Gresham 2, Membrey, Dunstan.

BEST: Port Adelaide: Clurey, Westhoff, Wingard, Motlop, Boak, Watts. St Kilda: Armitage, Dunstan, Steele, Longer, Webster, Ross.

INJURIES: Port Adelaide: Jonas (knee).

UMPIRES: Fisher, Schmitt, Hay.

CROWD: 36,253 at Adelaide Oval.

Clurey (PA) 8
Westhoff (PA) 8
Wingard (PA) 8
Armitage (St K) 8
Motlop (PA) 7

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