Lions short-circuit Power, roar into preliminary final

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The Brisbane Lions are through to the preliminary final, putting Port Adelaide to sleep with an eight-goal third-quarter blitz, eventually running away convincing 48-point winners.

On a fast deck after a sparkling day, the play was open, the opposite of Thursday’s bitter slog between Collingwood and Melbourne, and it made for some electric football. But a shootout was always going to favour the Lions. They simply had too many forward guns for a brittle Port defence, Joe Daniher leading the way with five goals.

Joe Daniher celebrates after kicking one of his five goals.Credit: Getty Images

Daniher and Charlie Cameron were, as always, pure theatre for their club, with seven goals between them. Cameron had been mostly quiet in his 200th game until Dayne Zorko found him with a laser-like kick in the third quarter. Cameron slotted it, then had another on the board before the crowd had even finished singing Take Me Home, Country Roads.

The sole consolation for the Power is they get to go home, and will face Greater Western Sydney at Adelaide Oval next week. Win that, and they’ll have to roll Collingwood at the MCG. They may have to do it without key back Trent McKenzie, who threw away his mouthguard in despair as he was assisted from the field after wrenching an ankle.

They had enough of the play, with midfield stars Connor Rozee and Zak Butters having moments where they ripped the momentum away from the Lions. Up forward, Ollie Lord had a breakout four goals, and Willie Rioli and Sam Powell-Pepper were constant threats. But they were never able to maintain control for long enough.

Charlie Cameron set the game and crowd alight in the Lions’ win.Credit: Getty Images

Ominously, the Lions also had a convincing win without an overwhelming contribution from Lachie Neale, who was well held by tagger Willem Drew. Instead, it was Hugh McCluggage who went toe to toe with the Power’s guns in the centre, with eight clearances. Cam Rayner and Zac Bailey also made explosive contributions.

It was Bailey who opened for Brisbane with a blistering goal – fending off Miles Bergman, shrugging off a tackler on the boundary, then slotting the snap. It brought the home crowd of over 36,000 people into the game immediately. The Lions haven’t lost at home all year, and they were never likely to after that.

A few Port players were stricken by nerves. Todd Marshall, usually a dead-eye, was having an even worse time of it, kicking one behind and two more out on the full in the first half from four set shots. He nailed the difficult one, of course. Eric Hipwood had his issues for the Lions too, but he made up for it with his workrate, leading hard up the wings.

Cam Rayner celebrates a goal.Credit: AFL Photos

Young players rose to the occasion. Jaspa Fletcher was a livewire in the first quarter and had a big say in seeing the Lions to quarter-time with an 11-point lead. Port’s focal point was 21-year-old Lord, who was causing Harris Andrews headaches. His three goals to half-time dragged Port back into the game.

The Power briefly held sway in the second quarter. A jinking run down the wing by Butters led to Marshall’s solitary goal; Rozee first set up Lord, then ran circles around Bailey to briefly give Port the lead. But it was answered by Rayner’s third goal, the No. 1 draft pick looking more and more like the player he was always touted to become.

A snap to Zorko in the shadow of half-time saw the Lions kick clear again, and one of the AFL’s supreme antagonists turned to the crowd and roared. They roared back; as goals rained down in the third and final quarters, they roared louder. They’ll be back in two weeks. With a clean bill of health, the Lions are going to take some stopping.

BRISBANE LIONS 3.3 8.4 16.5 19.9 (123)
PORT ADELAIDE 1.4 5.6 9.9 11.9 (75)
Brisbane Lions: Daniher 5, Rayner 3, Fletcher 3, Cameron 2, McCluggage, Zorko, Hipwood, Bailey, McCarthy, Lyons.
Port Adelaide: Lord 4, Powell-Pepper 2, Marshall 2, Byrne-Jones, Rioli, Rozee.
Brisbane Lions: McCluggage, Daniher, Rayner, Dunkley, Fletcher, Wilmot.
Port Adelaide: Rozee, Butters, Lord, Powell-Pepper, Drew, Houston.
Port Adelaide: Williams (hamstring), McKenzie (ankle).
36,020 at the Gabba.

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