A BRILLIANT Zak Butters goal has helped ladder-leader Port Adelaide barely survive an under-strength Hawthorn line-up at Adelaide Oval on Saturday night.
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Only four points separated them with barely two minutes to go, when Butters burst through a stoppage and gleefully accepted a deft Scott Lycett tap 15m out from the Power's goal to seal a 10-point victory.
>> WATCH THE MATCH HIGHLIGHTS IN THE PLAYER ABOVE
Scores were level at three-quarter time, but Port finally began establishing control in the contest and winning the territory battle, only for wasteful goalkicking to again let it down.
Former Power star Shaun Burgoyne's accurate blast from beyond 50m set up a grandstand finish, but Butters and Lycett ensured their club escaped with a 9.14 (68) to 9.4 (58) triumph.
Brownlow Medal fancy Travis Boak won a match-high 33 disposals, including 11 in the crucial final term, to go with nine clearances and five tackles in another best-on-ground performance.
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Lycett also stood up in the fourth quarter – beyond just his clutch tap against Hawk Ben McEvoy – while 200-gamer Tom Rockliff (28) and fellow midfield bull Sam Powell-Pepper (21) were prominent.
Port Adelaide won 18 more contested possessions in the final quarter after being level in that category at the last break, but it wasn't the response to last week's hiding that Ken Hinkley might have wanted.
Hawthorn was gallant but ultimately defeated for the second week in a row.
The Hawks lost James Sicily (knee), Jaeger O'Meara (hand), James Frawley (dislocated thumb) and Jack Gunston (back) from Sunday night's loss to West Coast, but the reinforcements did well.
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James Cousins (17, eight inside 50s), in particular, illustrated why he deserves more senior opportunities.
James Worpel (26, four clearances) and Tom Mitchell (25, five clearances) won their usual mountain of possession, while Sam Frost quelled Power forward Charlie Dixon.
Is hulking Power forward in trouble?
Charlie Dixon was at the centre of a brief scuffle between the clubs late in the first half after he ran through Hawthorn captain and milestone man Ben Stratton. Dixon crashed into Stratton coming from different directions, then moments later fell onto the veteran Hawk – making contact with his left elbow as he did. Stratton's teammates didn't take kindly to it, with Dixon eventually emerging from the melee without his jumper on. After smiles and chuckles with their opponents last week, Hawthorn footballers were, perhaps, back to their 'unsociable' ways and with plenty of reason to. Dixon might have to open his wallet this week.
Unpopular homecoming for Chad
Chad Wingard hadn't played a competitive game at Adelaide Oval since his high-profile trade from Port Adelaide to Hawthorn at the end of 2018. The other two major parts of that deal – Ryan Burton and Xavier Duursma (pick 18) – didn't play on Saturday, because of injury and form, but the Power fans clearly haven't forgotten how everything went down. Boos reverberated around the stadium both times Wingard lined up for goal, although the negative attention didn't stop him kicking truly on both occasions. It wasn't the same atmosphere for another ex-Power player, Jarman Impey – who departed in the 2017 AFL Trade Period – when he slotted a major from a set shot in the third quarter. They were two of three former Port Adelaide players in the Hawks' line-up, with Shaun Burgoyne playing in the Power's 2004 flag.
Injury-ravaged Hawks present opportunity
Hawthorn's had a pretty good injury run for most of the season, but that all changed in the past week. Jaeger O'Meara broke a hand in the first quarter against West Coast, then an even bigger blow came in the dying minutes of the same match, when James Sicily suffered an ACL rupture. James Frawley (dislocated thumb) and Jack Gunston (back soreness) also went out of the side, while Isaac Smith (shoulder) and Jon Ceglar (toe) weren't available, either. Instead, we saw some faces we haven't seen for a while: James Cousins and Dan Howe for their first games of 2020, plus Ollie Hanrahan, who last played in round four. Cousins was in at the first centre bounce and was a strong contributor from the get-go, while Hanrahan came to life in the third term with a goal and a couple of clever passes to set up shots at goal. Howe's return came down back and he'll look to build after a long stint out with a plantar fascia setback.
PORT ADELAIDE 2.3 6.5 7.10 9.14 (68)
HAWTHORN 4.1 5.2 8.4 9.4 (58)
Port Adelaide: Dixon 2, Butters 2, Ebert, Gray, Amon, Woodcock, Georgiades
Hawthorn: Wingard 2, Burgoyne 2, O'Brien, McEvoy, Breust, Hanrahan, Impey
Port Adelaide: Boak, Rockliff, Lycett, Powell-Pepper, Gray, Clurey
Hawthorn: Mitchell, Worpel, Frost, Cousins, Scrimshaw, Breust
Port Adelaide: Nil