The early minutes of the game looked ominous for Blues fans. Port were winning the ball too easily in the middle of the ground with Ryder and Wines influential from the start. In on the rare occasions Carlton came forward, the Power cleaned up easily and rebounded quicker than teenager after an angry break up, streaming into a forward half where Robbie Grey was a constant danger.
After giving off a handball for Pittard to miss an early shot, Grey won an important contest on the wing and put the ball out in front of Dixon on the lead. The big forward collected the bouncing ball on the run, turned and snapped the opening goal. Perhaps a minute later the Blues broke down trying to come out of defence and Polac was on hand to goal on the run from outside 50.
Ryder forced a turnover in the middle of the ground and kicked well to Grey who marked and played on, drawing the defender to him and giving a looping handball for Johnson to run into an open goal. Grey followed up soon after by kicking a goal himself after receiving from Dixon on the lead.
If I wanted to see a senseless slaughter I could just go to see the Dark Mofo bull exhibition (if it goes ahead) and just as I was thinking about turning the TV off, the Blues began to show some fight (see Mr Turnbull- it’s never too late to show you have a spine), winning a bit more of the ball themselves and defending with greater endeavour. After kicking four goals in the first ten minutes, Port played a lot more time defending in next ten minutes and could only add one more for the quarter through a piece of Wingard brilliance, gathering a difficult ball, turning more sharply than American foreign policy and beating a tackle to steady and goal from 30 metres out. This was cancelled out soon after by some good field kicking from Carlton which got the ball to Casboult near 50. In contrast to the neat kicking that had got the ball to him, Casboult gave it an awful shank, but it somehow tumbled and bounced awkwardly through untouched.
The Power looked to blitz again at the start of the second quarter with a goal to Westhoff, but a terrific mark in the goal square allowed Casboult to kick his second and seemed to give the Blues some belief. They managed to stifle the Power’s running game through the midfield forcing them to kick to contests and effecting their own turnovers. Port didn’t help themselves overly with some poor tackles that either failed to stick or went high and gave away free kicks, allowing Carlton a reprieve from the intense pressure of the first quarter. The only thing the Blues did wrong was failing to capitalise on a number of scoring opportunities, some of which were very easy. These missed shots at goal were a contrast to the Power who had fairly limited scoring opportunities for the quarter but managed to score two goals to Dixon and Polac.
The second half was a different game, with the Blues falling away like Turnbull’s approval ratings (although this was a bit sadder to watch). Wines was awesome, winning the ball at stoppages and in one on one contests, allowing the Power to begin running the ball again. Pittard, Impey and Polac were particularly damaging in this respect, but the quarter was really all about Robbie Gray, who was again involved in everything. He took a number of impressive marks in forward 50, but failing to finish them off with straight kicking for goal, missing three shots for the quarter before he finally kicked one after a slick handball from Wines.
Sam Gray took a good mark and converted in the early minutes and this was quickly followed by a goal to Young, who took advantage from a free kick paid to Trengrove in a marking contest. Port lost Boak to a minor hamstring strain, but it slowed them less than Tony Abbott’s environmental policies slowed climate change. Goals to Trengrove and Johnson rounded out the third quarter demolition in which Port’s lead went from 30 points to 70.
By the start of the fourth quarter it was looking like a whitewash to rival the Oscars was on the cards, but Port looked to lose a fraction of defensive intensity with the result already decided. They continued to work hard offensively and extended the margin further, but they also gave their opponents more of the ball and Carlton were at least good enough to significantly add to the two goals they had scored to this point.
As a result the final term became a bit of a shoot-out, Casboult marked early and kicked his third goal while Silvagni got an easy one for Carlton running into an open goal with no one around. At the other end, Broadbent, Polac and Trengrove all kicked long goals in quick succession. Historically, Gibbs seems to be as easy to blame as millennials and it would be wrong to say he had a great influence on today’s game, but he kept fighting and he got some reward for his hard work when he marked and goaled midway through the term. Port increased their lead further with goals to Young and Trengrove before Casboult kicked his fourth and made a case to be considered the most effective tall forward on the ground considering his limited opportunities compared to Dixon and Westhoff. Not that there was any question who was the best forward on the ground, but Robbie Gray underlined his excellent game with two more goals in a minute shortly before the end.
A number of the Port players impressed me for their role in this thrashing, although I didn’t pay too much attention to the final quarter as the game was already won by then. The outside runners for Port were incredibly damaging, especially Polac who was excellent. Wines was also brilliant in the contests, getting a heap of the ball and rarely losing a one-on-one. For all that, Gray was harder to defend than Turnbull’s new citizenship changes and was clearly the standout player on the ground. He ended with five goals and could have had eight or nine, as well as creating a number of goals for his team mates.
I didn’t award a snickers to anyone today. The Blues tried but were beaten all over the ground and it would be churlish to single any one player out. Compared to when I saw them a few weeks ago, Carlton were a disappointment in the way they fell away in the second half but I have to give credit to a ferocious Port team for that. Carlton seem to be going through more change than Hobart Airport, while Port seems to be settling into what could potentially be a very strong team if they fix up a few things.