Gray’s class decides another epic derby
NEXT time anyone wants to say that the Showdown - after 21 years - is more talk than bite, take them on.
And have no doubt which dog in this twice-a-year scrap at Adelaide Oval showed the sharper teeth rather than just a loud bark in Showdown 44. It is now Port Adelaide, holding the new Showdown Shield on its first offering - and after defying the more favoured Crows as the Power did when the first derby was played at Football Park 21 years ago.
After watching Adelaide cart away the old Showdown Trophy five consecutive times from 2013 to that 84-point thrashing in August, Port Adelaide won again a derby that had the most dramatic last-quarter time-on period since the last Showdown at West Lakes in 2013.
That was won on Angus Monfries' freakish kick. This win was decided on Robbie Gray's class - and six goals - and Geelong recruit Steven Motlop's running, 40-metre goal with 21 seconds to play.
So many questions were answered in this Showdown. And one core point remains about Port Adelaide - it does make games become difficult by its erratic skill base, particularly with kicking.
Every nerve-wracked - and agitated - Power fan might wish the class of Robbie Gray would rub off on others at training at Alberton. But there is only one Robbie Gray, who tore apart this derby by standing out when it counted most.
The third quarter captured the intense spirit of this rivalry - and Robbie Gray's brilliance with five goals in this term.
Port Adelaide played hard; the Crows stayed hard - as noted when defender Luke Brown stopped Power captain Travis Boak in his tracks at half-forward in the 19th minute for a holding-the-ball call.
That play finished with Eddie Betts putting a fading Adelaide 20 points up on time-on of the third quarter.
But the Power, even with all its frustrating ball-handling mistakes, never gave up ... not even when it gave up a 17-point lead at the start of time-on in the last term.
If the question lingers as to whether a non-South Australian can understand the Showdown is not "just another game", feel the heat Port Adelaide ruckman Patrick Ryder - a West Australian - brought to the epic 44th derby.
Ryder's want to deal with some old scores with Sam Jacobs - and standing up to Crows captain Taylor Walker for rough handling Robbie Gray in the first term - proves this rivalry has moved beyond SANFL suburban grudges such as 1990.
Port Adelaide's run-through banner - controversial at Showdown 43 for mocking Crows stereotypes - had a safe script yesterday as it urged the Power players to "play tough and bold" after being tagged as "soft" a week earlier. There was spirit, as highlighted in the full-bore scrap for possession on the south-east edge of the centre square in the 27th minute of the first term.
But clearly missing - and made more stark against a sound ball-handling team such as Adelaide - is the constantly repeating flaws exposed in the Power players' skill base. There are kicking errors that lead to increased pressure that brings poor decisions.
Showdowns are, by definition, tough. To make them even tougher with damaging turnovers - and to suffer scoreboard pressure with poor goalkicking conversion - is Port Adelaide's burden.
But now defining Ken Hinkley's playing group is toughness - rather than being "soft".
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