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Port Adelaide's season in serious trouble as Blues cause a boilover

Highlights: Carlton v Port Adelaide The Blues and Power clash in round 12
MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - JUNE 20: Lachie Henderson of the Blues celebrates a goal during the 2015 AFL round twelve match between the Carlton Blues and Port Adelaide Power at the Melbourne Cricket Ground, Melbourne on June 20, 2015. (Photo by Justine Walker/AFL Media)
A Lachie Henderson goal causes celebrations all round as the Blues turn out the Power

CARLTON has climbed off the bottom of the ladder and left Port Adelaide's season on the brink of disaster after beating the Power by four points at the MCG on Saturday.

In what was interim coach John Barker's first win in charge of the Blues, an enthusiastic and daring Carlton line-up held on against a rampaging Port Adelaide unit to win 17.8 (110) to 16.10 (106).

Five talking points: Carlton v Port Adelaide

The Blues' second win of the season (and first in Australia since August 9 last year) saw them jump ahead of Gold Coast and the Brisbane Lions on the ladder, and was founded on energetic, attacking flair and tackling ferocity which was non-existent under sacked coach Mick Malthouse.

The Blues raced to a 29-point lead one minute into the last term when Troy Menzel coolly converted a checkside shot, but that seemed to inspire the Power to take the game on. They kicked five of the next six goals, and looked set to snatch the win, but ultimately fell short. 

Watch the last two minutes as the Blues hang on

Power youngster Sam Colquhoun was paid a mark inside 50 with moments left, but the non-controlling umpire judged the ball to have been touched, forcing a ball-up instead of play continuing.

An AFL spokesperson later confirmed it was the right decision by the umpire to call a bounce after the miscommunication.

Just as Carlton's win was a fillip for the club and its supporters in a dire year, it was a disastrous result for the Power, who slumped to their fifth loss from their past seven games, despite five goals from star forward Chad Wingard.   

During the pre-match radio rounds, Port Adelaide coach Ken Hinkley promised his side was soon to return to its ballistic, hard-running and brave best against the Blues. "Put your seat belts on," he told 3AW.

But the Power only reached top gear when all looked lost after Menzel's snap. Before that, they had enjoyed surges of strong play - but if Port at its best is a Formula One car, then it had spent significant parts of this race stuck in pit lane.  

Second-year midfielder Patrick Cripps was in the driver's seat for the Blues. He gathered 31 disposals (15 contested), 10 clearances and laid 11 tackles in a display that further endeared him to the Carlton faithful.

 

His tenacity was matched by Nick Graham, who registered seven tackles and gathered 18 disposals in another encouraging performance. Cripps, Graham, Dylan Buckley and Sam Docherty are among the club's most impressive younger players, and all contributed when called upon against the Power.

Veteran Andrew Carrazzo wasn't to be outdone, finding 29 touches, while captain Marc Murphy also had 29 disposals and 10 clearances.

Barker was proud of how his side withstood the late pressure from Port.

"I think the boys were really brave. There were a lot of defensive 50 stoppages in a row and we just rolled the sleeves up and did what we had to at that point in time to just halt that momentum," he said.

"Modern football is about momentum now and we’ve got grow in that area. When the opposition starts to get a little bit of that momentum we've got to get better at halting that."

Port held a one-point break at the first change after an exciting, free-flowing opening quarter. The visitors looked to have the early run of things before three consecutive goals to the Blues put them ahead, but Port Adelaide regained the advantage through some smart ball use across half-forward. 

Cripps, who at 20 has come to be the face of Carlton's impending rebuild, brought the Blues back into contest through some brilliant work at clearances and around the ground, as his team piled on six goals in the first 17 minutes of quarter.

Watch: Carlton rediscovers its hunger

When Andrejs Everitt marked at the top of the goal square and converted for his third goal of the game, the Blues led by 23 points and had the Power on the ropes. The swag of goals, which saw the Blues record their highest half-time score of their dismal season, forced Hinkley to move Justin Westhoff to defence, a decision which paid dividends.

Westhoff was able to control the play there and kickstart the Power's ball movement, and the results were emphatic: in a flash, Ollie Wines, Robbie Gray and Chad Wingard kicked goals to claw back to within four points of Carlton at half-time.

But Gray's brilliant afternoon (he had gathered eight clearances to that point, the most of any player in a first half this year) was over soon after, when he was concussed in a heavy tackle from Bryce Gibbs and taken from the ground on a stretcher.

 

Hinkley didn't think the tackle was malicious, instead focusing his attention on the Power's inconsistent efforts during games.

"It's a four-quarter game and you've got to play the whole of those four quarters. We're just not a team that's prepared to play the whole of those four quarters at the moment for the most part of this year," he said post-match.

"It's a team not believing. It's a team not sure about what's going to happen to them next. They've definitely lost their composure and confidence with the ball in hand. They're playing a little bit spooked, unfortunately."

Gary's absence left a worrying hole in Port's midfield and the Blues took advantage, booting the first three goals of the third term. They held on to a 23-point lead at the final change, with an upset brewing and Port's season on the line. 

The Power responded to the challenge, even after falling nearly five goals behind. Captain Travis Boak led the fightback (he finished with a team-high 27 touches), controlled the centre, and forwards Jay Schulz and Angus Monfries became involved after quiet days. But the run came too late and, for the Blues, just late enough. 

 

CARLTON              4.2   10.3   15.7    17.8 (110)
PORT ADELAIDE   4.3   9.5     11.8    16.10 (106)

GOALS
Carlton: Everitt 3, Henderson 3, Graham 2, Armfield 2, Casboult 2, Menzel 2, Wood, Bell, Murphy,
Port Adelaide: Wingard 5, Gray 2, Boak 2, Westhoff 2, Ebert, Wines, Monfries, Colquhoun, Krakouer

BEST
Carlton: Cripps, Carrazzo, Murphy, Rowe, Graham, Bell
Port Adelaide: Wingard, Boak, Wines, Hartlett, Impey, Colquhoun

INJURIES
Carlton: Murphy (corked quad)
Port Adelaide: Gray (concussion)

SUBSTITUTES
Carlton: Andrew Walker replaced Cameron Wood in the final quarter.
Port Adelaide: Brendon Ah Chee replaced Robbie Gray in the third quarter.

Reports: Nil

Umpires: Nicholls, Hosking, Wallace

Official crowd: 27,693 at the MCG

Dylan Buckley shows his delight at the final siren while Ollie Wines feels the pain. Picture: AFL  Media