PORT ADELAIDE 5.1 6.2 8.6 14.11 (95)
NORTH MELBOURNE 4.1 7.5 11.9 14.9 (93)
The Kangaroos had controlled a scrappy contest for nearly the whole game before the Power slammed on six final-quarter goals.
North led by 21 points at the final break and the result seemed like a foregone conclusion.
They even led by as much as 27 before Port kicked the last 5 goals of the game to take home the four points. It was the last of these goals, the final scoring shot of the game, booted by Paul Stewart that was the killer.
Now sitting at 3-5 after losing two matches they were expected to take home, North must encourage some self-reflection. For a side that defeated the 2011 premiers Geelong and was expected to play finals footy, the final quarter effort was simply not good enough.
After the loss to the Western Bulldogs last weekend, many said the game at AAMI Stadium would be a barometer for where North was at and the outcome leaves them precariously close to losing control.
It all started well enough. Port committed several errors very early in the match and Drew Petrie capitalised for the Kangaroos, booting the first after just a minute had gone on the clock.
Two minutes later the inside 50 count read 6 to zero in North’s favour.
Port seemed to struggle to move the ball cleanly. When they did, they got their first through a Brett Ebert mark and goal, but soon afterwards, Daniel Wells took advantage of a Port turnover and delivered to Petrie who kicked his second.
Kieran Harper was off temporarily with a slight concussion, but came back on to good effect, pinpointing a kick to an open Ben Warren who booted another one.
Port used run out of the middle to deliver the ball three times to Jay Schulz, who kicked truly each time. Schulz was outstanding all day, ending up with 7 straight goals.
He was the only multiple goal-kicker for the Power and with Westhoff having an off-day their only real key forward, but he took to the task with aplomb.
Play was poor for the next two quarters, with turnovers and fumbles aplenty. North Melbourne got the better of it though and seemed set for an easy victory. They took the game by the scruff of the neck in the third term, booting four of the last five goals to take a 21-point lead.
Brent Harvey had perhaps his only impact of the day with one of these goals. He was tagged by Kane Cornes and Jacob Surjan at different points and ended up with only 12 disposals, a pittance by his standards.
To add to a poor day, he might be in trouble with the Match Review Panel after delivering a forearm to the head of Power newbie Chad Wingard in the third term.
Both coaches seemed surprised at the outcome. Port coach Matthew Primus admitted the win was “lucky” and Brad Scott remarked he “had never been involved in such a game, where one side dominated play for so long only to lose”.
Danyle Pearce, the much-maligned 2006 rising star, staked his claim for a permanent spot in the Power’s 22 with an outstanding 30-disposal performance.
Schulz’s four final-quarter goals were absolutely instrumental in the victory and he was the single, most important player on the ground.
Darren Pfeiffer, the Port Adelaide rookie at his third AFL club, showed his strength in the final term and his determination was inspiring.
North Melbourne had a strong performer in each area of their own, with captain Andrew Swallow amassing 28 touches, 12 tackles and a goal. Key-forward Petrie kicked five straight of his own.
Todd Goldstein showed glimpses of returning to form, amassing 38 hit-outs, but it was a brave Brent Renouf who returned from a dislocated finger in the first who won the ruck battle.
But like these two efforts, they were just a little less than what Port Adelaide put in. After six straight losses, the Power could be heading for two straight victories when they play a struggling Gold Coast at Metricon next weekend, while North have a must-win clash with the Brisbane Lions at Etihad.
Port Adelaide had its third-lowest home crowd with just 14,508 turning up, but those who were there, witnessed something truly special from the club.
3) – Jay Schulz (Port)
2) – Danyle Pearce (Port)
1) – Andrew Swallow (North)
Port Adelaide: Schulz 7, Cornes, Brett Ebert, Broadbent, Jacobs, McCarthy, Stewart, Westhoff
North Melbourne: Petrie 5, Wells 2, Thomas 2, Swallow, Warren, Ziebell, Harvey, Pedersen
Port Adelaide: Pearce, Schulz, Brad Ebert, Renouf, Pfeiffer, Broadbent
North Melbourne: Swallow, Wells, Petrie, Ziebell, Goldstein
Port Adelaide: Renouf (dislocated finger)
North Melbourne: Edwards (soreness) replaced in side by Cameron Pedersen, Thompson (head cut)
Port Adelaide: Paul Stewart replaced John Butcher in the third quarter
North Melbourne: Brad McKenzie replaced Kieran Harper in the fourth quarter
Umpires: Margetts, Fila, Jeffery
Official crowd: 14,508 at AAMI Stadium