EVERYTHING was heading Port Adelaide's way. In the space of six minutes to open the final quarter against Geelong, the Power had kicked three goals, jumped to a nine-point lead and had all the momentum.
Enter Jeremy Cameron.
The star Geelong recruit didn't just turn the game his side's way; he wrenched the four points out of Port's hands and dragged them back into his team's grasp. Such was his influence in the frantic final term, the former Giants spearhead probably deserved to carry them back in his hand luggage as the Cats' hit-and-run mission to Adelaide Oval was accomplished.
Cameron's three goals for the last quarter, and five for the game, was central to the Cats' 17.10 (112) to 14.7 (91) win over the Power on Thursday night in a high-scoring and even higher quality contest of the top-four aspirants.
The Cameron-Tom Hawkins partnership was pivotal to the Cats' victory, with the two-pronged attack combining for nine goals as the visitors stretched the Power's defensive stocks. Throw in Gary Rohan, whose three-goal haul was the cream on the cake, and the Power couldn't stop the forward masterclass.
The win was Geelong's fifth in a row and their seventh of their past eight games, and a handy reminder that last year's Grand Finalists are building at their own speed. Tom Stewart was excellent in defence for the Cats with 23 disposals, while Mitch Duncan (20 disposals, one goal) and returning match-winner Patrick Dangerfield (18 disposals) were also busy.
Port was beaten but should not lose hope out of the game. Connor Rozee's five-goal performance sparked his side and will be a shot of confidence for the youngster, while Charlie Dixon was also excellent in attack with four goals. Ollie Wines continued his consistent season with 29 disposals and seven clearances.
Rozee's return to form happened in a flash, with his first term igniting the Power. His first goal came courtesy of a free kick – he took the shot after Todd Marshall was forced off the ground with concussion – but his next three goals were all his.
One was a snap under pressure and the next a brilliant shot on the run, with his fourth goal coming after he found space and marked on the lead.
His highlights reel was matched by some terrific moments from the Cats, though, who had Hawkins kick two of his own as the clubs combined for nine opening-term goals.
Port looked set to run away with the game in the second quarter, with Mitch Georgiades' long bomb at the 16-minute mark putting the Power ahead by 21 points. But that stunned the Cats into action, with the visitors booting the next four goals to take in a three-point lead at half-time.
Geelong had made their move aerially. The Cats were too tall and strong for the Power, hauling in 14 contested marks to three in the first half to prove difficult to contain.
The to-and-fro of the high quality clash continued in the third term, with Geelong stretching their advantage to 10 points after Rohan's late goal on the three-quarter time siren.
The Port cavalry stepped up in an early midfield blast at the top of the final quarter to give the Cats a fright, but with Cameron and Hawkins on top, they fought back control to clinch the impressive win.
It had been seven weeks since Dangerfield went down with a syndesmosis ankle injury, and the champion Cat returned and showed he hadn't missed a beat. The Brownlow medallist and five-time All Australian was not best-on-ground but his class and poise with every possession was important for the Cats in the forward line and midfield, and he finished with 18 disposals. It was only Dangerfield's third game of the season in a campaign so far interrupted by injury and suspension and his return was a reminder of the star-power in Chris Scott's squad.
Boak breaks the Cats' brakes
Mark O'Connor has been deployed in some key tagging jobs this season, including restricting Brownlow medallists Lachie Neale and Tom Mitchell, and again the Cats handed him with a crucial task against the Power. O'Connor went to gun Power midfielder Travis Boak and largely muted his influence in the first half when he recorded just eight disposals. But he finished with 27 and was central to Port's bursts in the third and fourth quarters when they looked set to break the game open.
PORT ADELAIDE 5.1 8.2 10.4 14.7 (91)
GEELONG 4.3 8.5 11.8 17.10 (112)
Port Adelaide: Rozee 5, Dixon 4, Georgiades, Powell-Pepper, Farrell, Wines, Jones
Geelong: Cameron 5, Hawkins 4, Rohan 3, Parfitt 2, Smith, Duncan, Henderson
Port Adelaide: Rozee, Wines, Dixon, Boak, Gray
Geelong: Cameron, Hawkins, Rohan, Stewart, Duncan, Parfitt
Port Adelaide: Marshall (concussion)
Port Adelaide: Boyd Woodcock (replaced Marshall)
Geelong: Quinton Narkle (unused)