Saints stung: Jason Horne-Francis drives Port Adelaide to upset win
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Rival supporters may be jeering Jason Horne-Francis out of childishness, but the boos will soon become a begrudging mark of respect.
The man they call the Hornet stung Saints fans where it hurt most, with a performance beyond his 19 years to sink St Kilda at Marvel Stadium on Friday night.
A four-quarter performer in a game where Port played three, the No. 1 draft pick was the most dynamic player in a game played at a high intensity for this time of year, his 25 disposals and 11 clearances a big factor in the result.
Horne-Francis was enormous across the match.Credit: Getty Images
Though the Saints will not lose admirers, Port’s seven-point win on the road shows Ken Hinkley’s men are a team to watch this year.
This will be a bitter pill to swallow for the Saints, who were excellent early but lacked the match-winners when the tide turned and the game was on the line late.
This was perhaps the first time this season Max King’s absence was keenly felt. As they sought late goals, the Saints bombed long to Port’s talls behind the ball, be it Jeremy Finlayson, who was an extra late, or Aliir Aliir, whose impact on the game could not be measured by possessions.
Despite having more entries, the Saints pulled down two fewer marks inside 50. They would dearly loved to have King there to at least bring the ball to ground.
At the other end, Charlie Dixon stood up in big moments in the final term. He kicked the clinching goal, and his smother on Josh Battle set up another vital major.
Saints prime movers Jack Sinclair, Jack Steele and Brad Hill were all influential in a first term where there was a marked difference in the intensity between the teams.
Jason Horne-Francis shows some dash.Credit: Getty Images
Dominating the contested side of the game, the Saints moved the ball with confidence, finding plenty of gaps in Port’s defensive structure. Their three-goal advantage at quarter-time was a touch on the light side given their control of play.
Reactive in the first term, the Power lifted their intensity in the second. Dixon was a barometer for their improvement. Left flat-footed twice in the opening minutes of the game, Dixon’s alertness was rewarded with a tackle and goal at Callum Wilkie’s expense.
Horne-Francis, though, was the fire starter for Port. A lone hand in the middle in the first quarter, Horne-Francis left opponents in his wake with his speed away from traffic.
Port scored the only four goals of the quarter, as the frustration mounted for the Saints. Twice, Jack Higgins expended precious energy blowing up at the umpires, though he had strong claims on each occasion.
The match truly became a contest in the third term when neither side could dictate proceedings.
The Saints paid closer attention to Horne-Francis, whose influence at the stoppage waned, but he still bobbed up deep in defence for a vital mark. As they did last week, Sinclair was moved into the middle in a bid to arrest St Kilda’s midfield woes.
Individual acts of brilliance became priceless. Mitch Owens’ clean hands set up an early goal for the Saints, but Junior Rioli’s brilliant checkside snap after selling a dummy was the best of the night.
Brad Hill is not known for the blue-collar side of his game, but his preparedness to get his hands dirty is symbolic of the Saints’ improvement. Reading the cues from Port’s young ruckman Brynn Teakle as he stood the mark, the silky-skilled wingman was quick off the mark to close down space on Jase Burgoyne and launch a desperate dive to smother.
Travis Boak applies the pressure to Liam Stocker.Credit: Getty Images
Knee worry for Duursma
When Xavier Duursma and Rowan Marshall crashed into each other at a marking contest in the first quarter, it was the Saints ruckman who initially appeared to have come off second best. Marshall took a few moments to catch his breath as the game continued around him but played on. Duursma might be looking at a few weeks on the sidelines with a left knee issue. The front-on knee contact was consistent with most posterior cruciate ligament injuries. The speedy midfielder returned to the field with his left knee taped but was clearly hampered in his movement and subbed out of the game at quarter-time. He had been lively with five disposals and a goal.
ST KILDA 5.2 5.6 8.8 11.10 (76)
PORT ADELAIDE 2.2 6.7 9.10 12.11 (83)
GOALS: St Kilda: Owens 2, Gresham 2, Wood, Higgins, Cordy, Membrey, Steele, Clark, Butler
Port Adelaide: Finlayson 2, Powell-Pepper 2, Dixon 2, Rioli 2, McEntee, Duursma, Boak, Houston
BEST: Port Adelaide: Horne-Francis, Boak, Powell-Pepper, Butters, Houston, Rioli.
St Kilda: Steele, Marshall, Sinclair, Ross, Hill, Wanganeen-Milera.
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