The chasm between the AFL contenders and pretenders was starkly evident on Saturday at the SCG, as flag-chasing Sydney buried Port Adelaide’s finals hopes with a 67-point thrashing.
The Swans piled on the first 54 points and 14 scoring shots of the game on their way to a 14.16 (100) to 4.9 (33) win, which shored up their top-four placing.
The combative Swans enjoyed a massive 186-132 advantage in contested possessions and finished 69-36 ahead in inside-50 entries.
Asked to write his own headline, Port coach Ken Hinkley didn’t hold back “outworked, outmuscled, outplayed”.
Hinkley said the game demonstrated Port were below the level needed to be a top-eight side and there was too big a gap between their best and worst.
“The ladder would have them (Sydney) probably second tonight, so they rightly own their position and, as bad as it sounds, we rightly own our position outside the eight,” Hinkley said.
“Our skill level is not at the level it needs to be to be a consistently good AFL side and, if we’re going to try to push into the eight, we have to improve that area.”
Sydney had 10 goal-kickers, with Lance Franklin, Isaac Heeney, Xavier Richards and Gary Rohan each booting two.
Port didn’t score until the 11th minute of the second quarter and looked anything but a team with their season on the line, albeit with just a faint mathematical chance of making the eight.
The Swans kicked six first-quarter goals to lead 41-0 at the opening break.
They led by as many as 75 points in the final quarter, although Port did outscore Sydney by seven points in a lacklustre final term.
“It would have been good to finish off a bit stronger in that last term, but gee, for three quarters, we were pretty good,” Swans’ coach John Longmire said.
He was happy with the impressive efforts of Heeney, who appears to be getting back to his best, young ruckmen Sam Naismith and Toby Nankervis and another strong defensive effort from his side, who have conceded the least points in the competition.
“They (Port Adelaide) are a powerful side – they can score heavily,” Longmire said.
“To be able to get our team defence right was very pleasing.”
Robbie Gray broke Port’s drought in the second quarter with a classy turn and finish, but touched the ball only seven times.
Sydney led by 49 at halftime and kicked the first three goals of the third quarter, but Longmire said he never urged his troops to try to boost the club’s percentage.
Luke Parker had 39 touches and Dan Hannebery 36 for Sydney, while Ollie Wines had 32 possessions for Port and Jasper Pittard 29.
Rohan (buttock) and Swans’ teammate Harry Cunningham (knee) picked up minor injuries but both played on.