Power surge past Dockers to reach prelim
Fremantle 11.17 (83)
Port Adelaide 15.15 (105)
Fremantle gave up a 31 point lead to lose to Port Adelaide in the semi-final in Perth last night.
Foxsports reported the sorry tale of the Dockers exit.
FREMANTLE’S season has ended with the bitter taste left by missed opportunities for the second year running, as the Dockers crumbled at the home that was meant to be their fortress last night.
Port Adelaide’s chief matchwinners in Robbie Gray, Ollie Wines and Chad Wingard were irresistible in this extraordinary semi-final and the match will go down as one of the most famous finals comebacks.
But having led by 31 points late in the second quarter before losing 15.15 (105) to 11.17 (83), this calamity go down as a sporting tragedy of immense proportions for the Dockers and their long-suffering supporters.
If bad kicking is bad football then Fremantle was horrible and brilliant at the same time in the first half.
Fremantle led by four goals at the major break after a first half that followed a remarkably similar script to that of last year’s preliminary final against Sydney at the same venue.
The Dockers were dominant without gaining commensurate reward on the scoreboard, spraying 6.11, including three consecutive behinds to Michael Walters in the space of a few minutes early in the second term.
But the extent Fremantle’s control was such that there were no genuine fears at half-time that the inaccuracy could cost the Dockers their season.
Enter Gray. The coaches’ player of the year sparked a stunning third-quarter rally from the Power, who trailed by 31 points 22 minutes into the second quarter.
Gray’s four-goal third term was one of the great individual quarters of finals football in recent memory, as he twice kicked clutch goals to take the lead for his side.
In a crucial sliding doors moment late in the third quarter, it was the players’ player of the year in Nat Fyfe who was responsible for a horror turnover that led to the coaches’ player of the year kicking his fourth.
With the Dockers having lost control of the midfield battle, Port Adelaide added six goals to two for the third term to turn a 24-point deficit into a two-point lead at the final change.
Fremantle defender Zac Dawson was reported for striking Gray in a clumsy spoiling attempt in the middle of the third-quarter mayhem.
Despite leading goalscorer Hayden Ballantyne watching the game at home with a broken jaw, the Dockers had a small forward of their own capable of matching tricks with Gray.
Walters kicked his team’s only two goals of the third term and put the Dockers back in front a minute into the last quarter with his third major.
Fremantle’s lead was back out to 10 points following Hayden Crozier’s second goal four minutes into the last quarter, before Wines got a crucial reply for Port with a clever snap.
It was the start of a run of three goals for the Power until Danyle Pearce gave the Dockers some hope with a goal at the 23-minute mark.
Wingard’s fourth was key and from there Port were home and seats were emptying.
The eerie post-match scene was inconceivable earlier in the game.
It might have taken Port just 18 minutes to kill off hapless Richmond last weekend, but coping with the structure and commitment of a desperate Fremantle on its home deck was another task entirely in the early going.
With Alex Silvagni a late withdrawal due to a hamstring problem, the Dockers were without three of their best four tall defenders and played with Dawson as their only recognised key defender.
Garrick Ibbotson conceded 13cm to his opponent Justin Westhoff, with Ross Lyon opting to leave forwards Matt Taberner and Chris Mayne in attack as Tendai Mzungu began as the loose man in defence.
Yet the relentless Dockers held key forwards Jay Schulz and Westhoff goalless in the first half.
Ryan Crowley half Power skipper Travis Boak (who finished with a season-low 16 touches) to just four handballs and no kicks to half-time in a superb tagging performance, while Dockers livewire Stephen Hill shook off Kane Cornes with 11 second-quarter possessions to provide some much needed run and carry.
He mightn’t have the tricks or the reputation of Freo’s ‘big three’ midfielders, but pint-sized South Australian Lachie Neale (32 possessions) set the tone for the Dockers’ early control with a stunning first term that included 15 disposals and four clearances.
Wingard kicked goals in the final minute of both the first and second quarters in crucial lifelines for the visitors.
So now the prelininary finals are decided with the Swans hosting North Melbourne on Friday and Port Adelaide travelling the MCG on Saturday to face Hawthorn.
By Max Power
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