PORT Adelaide coach Ken Hinkley says a lack of toughness was again an issue for the Power on Saturday night but insists they are "generally a pretty hard team".
Hinkley's men remain on top of the ladder despite the 29-point loss to St Kilda at Adelaide Oval, where they conceded five goals without kicking one of their own in a final-quarter whitewash.
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The Saints took the honours in the clearances (42-30) and contested possessions (129-118), while restricting Port to a modest 36 inside 50s.
Paddy Ryder (11 hitouts to advantage) and Rowan Marshall (seven clearances and two goals) won the ruck battle over Peter Ladhams (14 contested possessions), who was at least able to have an impact across the ground.
"There's no doubt they were better than us around the ball tonight," Hinkley told reporters.
"They had dominance from the rucks, then they were able to get ground-level dominance as well and they were physically stronger.
"That's a challenge for our boys, because a couple of times we've been beaten that's where we've been beaten.
"It's not that we're not capable but there's been nights when we haven't been able to perform at the level we want. I don't want anyone to go, 'We're not hard enough' – we're generally a pretty hard team but tonight we weren't."
Hinkley bemoaned his team's inability to get the ball out of St Kilda's half in the fourth term and how it "wasted one or two opportunities" compared to the Saints' amazing 12.1 scoreline.
Winning coach Brett Ratten said they had benefited from playing at Adelaide Oval twice in the same week, after beating the Crows by 23 points on Monday night.
The Saints have responded well since giving up a five-goal-plus lead for the second time this season three weeks ago against Fremantle and have provisionally moved up to third.
"You probably look at some games and think, 'Geez, we had some opportunities to win those games'," Ratten said.
"It's really allowed us to look and grow and educate the players, and even us as coaches about what's the right way for us to play … and when we're under pressure, what do we do?
"For us, it's about consistency. I thought our work around the stoppages and the contest was really pleasing."
Zak Jones and Marshall collected a team-high 13 contested possessions and combined for 15 clearances, while Jack Steele (21 disposals) kept Travis Boak to eight touches after quarter-time.
Ratten said Ryder "set the scene" with his ruckwork and he also offered praise for fellow ex-Port Adelaide footballer Dougal Howard, who restricted Charlie Dixon to one goal.