Dougal Howard celebrates the Power’s opening goal. Picture: AAP Image/David Mariuz
Dougal Howard celebrates the Power’s opening goal. Picture: AAP Image/David Mariuz

Power smashes sorry Saints in Chinese burn

PORT Adelaide is still the AFL emperor of China - and is scoring big and accurately again.

The Power remains unbeaten in Shanghai where it is chasing big corporate money, adding a 70-point win - off a 22.7 scoreline - against St Kilda on Sunday to the two previous walkovers of Gold Coast in the only AFL premiership games played in the northern hemisphere.

The 76 per cent conversion rate in Shanghai fell short of the club's AFL record of 80 per cent (from 16.4) against the Western Bulldogs at Adelaide Oval in 2015.

In the testing 33C conditions - under a clear Shanghai sky - the harder-running Port Adelaide appeared very much at home with a powerful game style at its 1930s Chinese playground at Jiangwan Stadium. The Power ended a 353-day run without breaking the ton as its 139 points marks the team's highest score since pounding the Western Bulldogs with 132 points at Adelaide Oval on June 14 last year.

The 100-point barrier was broken with still six minutes to play in the third term as ruckman Patrick Ryder kicked the Power's 17th goal from 20 scores.

Port Adelaide had 13 players - nine at half-time - put up goals as the Power worked stronger and with a harder edge in winning the contests against a St Kilda side that did seem lost in the club's longest trip for a "home" game.

It was all to the script the Power has promised since the summer after the reworking of the playbook at Alberton to deliver more speed, more efficient plays and more goals.

The balance of the team contribution - led by former captain Travis Boak - makes this the most-complete Port Adelaide performance in China, surpassing the 72-point win against an ill-prepared Gold Coast at Shanghai in 2017.

The Power enters the mid-season break with a 6-5 win-loss record - and players to return from the injury list, in particular former vice-captain Brad Ebert and key forward Charlie Dixon.

Riley Bonner celebrates one of his three goals against St Kilda in Shanghai. Picture: Michael Willson/AFL Photos)
Riley Bonner celebrates one of his three goals against St Kilda in Shanghai. Picture: Michael Willson/AFL Photos)
OPENING COURSE

Port Adelaide's first-quarter score - 5.1 with five goalscorers - answered coach Ken Hinkley's demand for a fast start to push away the questions of the Power's poor starts. The 31 points were just one short the previous best first-quarter score of 5.2 this season against North Melbourne in Round 6 at Adelaide Oval.

The nine-point quarter-time lead on St Kilda marked the Power's first advantage at the first break since Round 6.

"Hunt the ball, hunt them," co-captain Tom Jonas declared in the pre-game as the answer to the Power's first-quarter malaise.

By the numbers, Port Adelaide won the contested ball 41-38 and the clearances 11-10 as ruck duo Patrick Ryder and Scott Lycett gained the early ascendancy on St Kilda's lone-hand ruckman Rowan Marshall.

The Power's fast start - and strength with the ground balls - meant St Kilda was forced into the hunting game too, winning the tackle count 14-12.

Power star Travis Boak evades Saint Jack Steele. Picture: Michael Willson/AFL Photos
Power star Travis Boak evades Saint Jack Steele. Picture: Michael Willson/AFL Photos

BEST BOAK

Former Port Adelaide captain Travis Boak knows exactly what the pre-game banner of "More Than A Game" means as his club seeks its financial security with the "China Strategy" - and why coach Ken Hinkley added this theme to his team meeting on Saturday.

Boak set the example from his 19 hard-earned disposals - and two goals - in the first half. And his work continues the form the restored midfielder has shown since relinquishing the captaincy in the off-season.

Dougal Howard of the Power marks over Callum Wilkie. Picture: Michael Willson/AFL Photos
Dougal Howard of the Power marks over Callum Wilkie. Picture: Michael Willson/AFL Photos

BACK UP FRONT

Blessed with defensive options, particularly with the return of Hawthorn recruit Ryan Burton, the Power reinstated key defender Dougal Howard to an pivotal attacking role. He had the first goal of the game in the first 100 seconds - and set up the second score, a miss from first-year forward Connor Rozee.

Howard's move to attack cost Billy Frampton his place in the goalsquare, but should be only a short-term move considering the progress key forward Charlie Dixon is making to return from serious leg and ankle injuries in the next month to play his first AFL game of the season.

LYCETT'S REMINDER

It is worth remembering St Kilda was one of the free-agent bidders for West Coast premiership ruckman Scott Lycett before he opted for a homecoming move to Port Adelaide.

St Kilda's measure of Lycett would have increased not just for his commanding ruck work, but also his intercept marking that made it easier to keep Howard in attack rather than his regular role in defence. He also forced the Saints to rethink how they loaded up their forwards with finer kicks inside-50.

Ruckman Scott Lycett was dominant for the Power. Picture: AAP Image/David Mariuz
Ruckman Scott Lycett was dominant for the Power. Picture: AAP Image/David Mariuz

THE FALL OUT

St Kilda is committed to returning to Shanghai for the next two years - and Port Adelaide intends to be in China for the next five, at least. But the questions will remain about the empty seats at 11,000-capacity Jiangwan Stadium and the illnesses the Saints and their coach Alan Richardson endured on arrival in China.

AFL chief executive Gillon McLachlan declared he is optimistic the game will be "slightly ahead" of break-even this year.

"And we're here for the long-term," said McLachlan who will have two full-time staff in an office in Shanghai after this match to build on commercial partnerships in China.

SCOREBOARD

PORT ADELAIDE 5.1 12.3 18.3 22.7 (139)

ST KILDA 3.4 5.8 7.10 9.15 (69)

BEST - Port Adelaide: Boak, R. Gray, Bonner, Lycett, Houston, Lienert, Amon.

St Kilda: Gresham, Marshall, Ross, Newnes, Sinclair.

GOALS - Port Adelaide: Bonner, R. Gray 3, Boak, Butters, Farrell, Howard, Ryder 2, Duursma, S. Gray, Lycett, Motlop, Rozee, Westhoff.

St Kilda: Gresham 3, Billings, Long, Marshall, Membrey, Newnes, Parker.

INJURIES - St Kilda: Geary (suspected fractured lower left leg).

UMPIRES: R. Findlay, A. Gianfagna, N. Williamson.

CROWD: 9412 at Jiangwan Stadium, Shanghai

News Corp Australia

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