Players celebrate a Dan Houston goal during the round 16 clash between Essendon and Port Adelaide at the MCG on July 1, 2023. Picture: AFL Photos

DAN Houston has launched a 55-metre goal after the siren to earn Port Adelaide a thrilling four-point victory after Essendon had stormed into the lead after being 17 points down with seven minutes left at the MCG on Saturday night.

Houston marked just inside the 50m line from Nic Martin's hurried clearance with 18 seconds left on the clock, before converting the long-range set shot beyond a pack of players on the goal line to secure the 11.12(78) to 10.14(74) victory and extend the Power's winning streak to 12 games.

The Power had turned a nine-point three-quarter time deficit into a game-high 17-point lead at the 20-minute mark of the last term, after four unanswered goals from Jeremy Finlayson, Ryan Burton, Connor Rozee and Darcy Byrne-Jones.

BOMBERS v POWER Full match coverage and stats

But the Bombers responded in dramatic fashion in the final seven minutes to hit the front, with two goals from Jye Caldwell alongside Kyle Langford's third major of the night. Caldwell's second from a 35m set shot had put the Dons up with 1:23 left, but that merely set the stage for Houston's intervention.


That goal put an exclamation mark on a thrilling contest on a rainy evening at the MCG where there were eight lead changes, the ultimate one capping Houston's exceptional display with 32 disposals and a game-high 15 contested possessions and seven marks.

Connor Rozee finished with three goals and 23 disposals, while Zak Butters put on another masterclass with 25 touches, including eight score involvements. Kane Farrell was impactful with a joint game-high 13 intercept possessions and outright game-high 10 score involvements.


It was cruel on a brave Essendon side who showed resolve to rally late and had earlier withstood Port's first-term dominance with strong performances from captain Zach Merrett (31 disposals), Darcy Parish (29 disposals) and Caldwell (29 disposals and two goals).

Dons ruckman Andrew Phillips capitalised on the Power's last-minute withdrawal of Scott Lycett, which handed a debut to raw 20-year-old Dante Visentini, to dominate with 33 hit-outs, offering plenty of quality first use for the Bombers. Jordan Ridley also blanked Todd Marshall, who had kicked 10 goals in his past three games, while Kyle Langford managed three goals up forward.


Port started the stronger with early goals from Rozee and Charlie Dixon, but were wasteful in front of goal, failing to capitalise on 18-8 inside 50s, 7-1 clearances and 6-1 marks inside 50 in the first term. Jayden Laverde's 50m bomb and Matt Guelfi's snap cut the margin to five points at the first break.

There were four lead changes alone in the second term with Essendon thwarting Port's early clearance dominance, while Butters lifted with 10 disposals. Port managed three goals to two for the quarter to lead by six points at half-time led by Farrell, who unleashed a trademark 55m goal, before his intercept mark initiated Rozee's excellent set shot goal from a tight angle.


But the Bombers hit back with an outstanding third term fuelled by 16-9 inside 50s and seven marks inside 50, with Guelfi and Langford both kicking their second goals to open up a seven-point lead, the former capitalising on Aliir Aliir's careless turnover in defence.

Butters responded to pull one back and level scores as the rain set in, before Jake Stringer slotted a set shot to restore Essendon's lead to nine points at the final change.


The Power, however, re-claimed the lead quickly with an assertive start to the last with clutch set shots from Finlayson and Burton. Sam Powell-Pepper's physicality grew in influence, setting up Rozee's major, before Byrne-Jones seemed to seal the points with his goal after Butters' run.

The Bombers had other ideas and looked set for their biggest scalp under Brad Scott after responding with three goals, with Caldwell converting after Mason Redman's hopeful left-foot snap landed in his lap. But Houston would have the final say.


Houston joins exclusive club
Dan Houston became the 57th player to kick a goal after the siren to win a game in VFL/AFL history. Despite the club's relatively brief history, he's also the fourth Port player to achieve that feat, behind Robbie Gray (2020 vs Carlton), Jared Poulter (2002 vs Sydney) and Peter Burgoyne (2000 vs Carlton). The angle for Gray's memorable goal at the Gabba had a high degree of difficulty, but Houston's may have been close to tougher, with a wet ball outside 50. Houston admitted after the game he wasn’t sure if he had the journey in him, but after a score review it was evident he'd just done enough. It's also the second game decided after the siren that Port have won this season after their dramatic round four triumph over Sydney when Aliir Aliir blocked Oliver Florent's set shot on the line.


Back-to-back MCG wins for Port who buck bye trend
The Power have impressed everyone this season but one question mark remaining about their premiership credentials was their recent record at the MCG – the home of the Grand Final - having lost four of their past five at the venue, including a nasty 71-point flogging from Collingwood in round two. Port's narrow win means it has now won its past two at the venue, with the club's next date at the 'G likely to come in September. The Power also became only the second side this season to win after the bye against a team who had played the previous week, making that record 2-10 overall, with the Western Bulldogs the only other winners.

Huge missed opportunity for Bombers
Essendon will be ruing a major missed opportunity to reinforce its finals spot which could have seen it move up to fifth, instead slipping back into the logjam of sides battling for positions in the bottom half of the eight. The Dons are now eighth with an 8-7 record with a host of sides on their heels, which becomes further relevant given all four of their next opponents are among those contenders with games against currently sixth-placed Adelaide, ninth-placed Geelong, the fifth-placed Western Bulldogs and 12th-placed Sydney to come.

Dyson Heppell after the round 16 clash between Essendon and Port Adelaide at the MCG on July 1, 2023. Picture: Getty Images


ESSENDON             2.2    4.8    7.12    10.14 (74)
PORT ADELAIDE    2.7    5.8     6.9     11.12 (78)

Essendon: Langford 3, Guelfi 2, Caldwell 2, Laverde, Martin, Stringer
Port Adelaide: Rozee 3, Dixon, Farrell, Narkle, Butters, Finlayson, Burton, Byrne-Jones, Houston

Essendon: Parish, Caldwell, Ridley, Phillips, Merrett, Heppell
Port Adelaide: Houston, Butters, Rozee, Farrell, Williams, Aliir

Essendon: Nil
Port Adelaide: Nil

Essendon: Nil
Port Adelaide: Josh Sinn replaced in selected side by Quinton Narkle, Scott Lycett (knee) replaced in selected side by Dante Visentini

Essendon: Dylan Shiel (replaced Jye Menzie at three-quarter time)
Port Adelaide: Jase Burgoyne (replaced Dante Visentini at three-quarter time)

Crowd: 38,957 at MCG