It was as un-Swans-like as any performance in recent memory. And it may prove costly. Sydney self-sabotaged via an inexplicable hail of brain explosions to gift-wrap a much-needed victory for undermanned Port Adelaide.
Not only did the Swans’ top four hopes take a hit, they now sit inside the top eight on percentage alone – and they largely have themselves to blame.
After slotting the first three goals and completely holding sway in the first 20 minutes of play, Sydney found themselves suddenly trailing at quarter-time after conceding four straight majors – all coming from turnovers.
In the second term, it was a spree of behinds – seven successive misses – which scuppered Sydney’s 16-9 inside-50 advantage edge for the quarter.
Still, the Swans should have fancied their chances at half-time.
They were four points in arrears but Port, already without sidelined veterans Travis Boak and Robbie Gray, had lost Zak Butters to a knee injury and debutant ruckman Brynn Teakle to a suspected collarbone injury in a second stanza of carnage.
But instead, Sydney capitulated wildly.
Former Port ruckman Pete Ladhams was the chief offender with a couple of acts of ill-discipline.
Tempers flare between Ollie Wines, right, and Peter Ladhams.Credit:Getty Images
Ladhams’ unnecessary off-the-ball ragdolling of Lachie Jones resulted in a free kick and goal to Sam Powell-Pepper. Charlie Dixon then got on the end of another free conceded by Ladhams.
This time, Ladhams was dragged by coach John Longmire and faces a possible suspension after dragging Ollie Wines down in a tackle, then inexcusably giving him a punch to the ribs while he was down.
“That might just confirm the reason why they [Port Adelaide] pushed him out of the club,” Adelaide Crows legend Mark Ricciuto said during the Fox Footy telecast.
While the Power’s pressure was elite, Sydney’s skills lacked sharpness, becoming beset with dump kicks and rushed disposals.
Port nailed six third-quarter goals before the Swans could even conjure their first inside-50 as the margin swelled to 42 points.
Sydney, largely through the absolute brilliance of Isaac Heeney (four goals), saved some face in a vastly improved fourth period with the breeze, but they were kept at bay by the Power, who, while depleted, defended grandly.
Before being substituted out, Butters was arguably the best player on the field. He booted Port’s first goal after a clean groundball swoop before his ferocious tackle on Colin O’Riordan resulted in Connor Rozee’s snapped play-on six-pointer to give the Power the lead, which they would not relinquish.
Butters, in the wars after having his cheekbone opened up last week during a collision with teammate Tom Jonas against Richmond, suffered a suspected medial ligament injury to his left knee while tackling Harry Cunningham over the boundary on the outer side.
Mid-season draftee Teakle’s first day as an AFL player ended when he shirt-fronted Sam McInerney in the second quarter. McInerney slowly rose to his feet but Teakle wasn’t so fortunate, retreating to the bench and having his left arm placed in a sling.
With a couple of soldiers down, several Port players lifted.
Brownlow medallist Wines was inspirational in the clinches, Rozee slick with his playmaking and finishing, and Jeremy Finlayson continues to demonstrate a previously untapped ruck craft, proving influential in Teakle’s second-half absence.
For the first time this season, Port rolled the dice and played all four of their specialist tall forwards, Charlie Dixon, Todd Marshall, Mitch Georgiades and Finlayson. It won’t always work, but it meshed against Sydney.
Dixon jagged a couple of goals, while Finlayson – as he did last week against Richmond – impressed while mixing ruck duties with attacking ones.
Back in the team after a demotion to the SANFL, Georgiades presented powerfully and athletically in attack after a quiet opening term, only to let himself down with a missed set shot on the half-time siren. Meanwhile, Marshall, perhaps fourth in the pecking order at the beginning of the season in the minds of most Power fans, again proved himself the new leader of the pack with his match-winning haul.
Port Adelaide: Wines, Rozee, Marshall, Bonner, Finlayson, Byrne-Jones.
Sydney: Heeney, Parker, Mills, Gulden, Rowbottom.
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