Port Melbourne goes in for the kill against North Ballarat
From Leader Newspapers
Reported by Paul Amy
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IT took a while for Port Melbourne to get on top of North Ballarat at the North Port Oval on Saturday.
When it did it bore down on the Roosters with the cold-eyed ruthlessness of an executioner, granting them no mercy in the second half.
The 84-point win made for one of the most impressive victories of Port's winning streak.
It now stands at 26 and nobody at the Borough will be losing count. It is a magnificent achievement from a team that combines skill, strength, stamina and spirit.
Yet at halftime there was a feeling Port's long run was under threat.
It led by only 13 points and the Roosters were up for the fight.
Coach Gary Ayres was quick to bring his players together when they entered the rooms and he made some points in rather forceful terms.
They responded, as they always do when presented with a challenge.
Goals from Chris Cain, Sam Pleming and Clay Johnston in the first seven minutes of the third quarter extended the lead to 33 points.
The Roosters got one back, but the Borough kicked the next five, including one from bustling newcomer Mitch Wooffindin when he burst from a stoppage at half forward.
At the last change North Ballarat coach Gerard FitzGerald pleaded with his players to "grit your teeth" and avoid a heavy loss.
But Port finished the Roosters off with another eight goals, turning what had been a scrap into a snap.
Fittingly, the ball was in its forward line when the siren went.
The Borough had 15 goalkickers and needed no dominating performances from their two key forwards, 100-gamer Dean Galea and Adrian Bonaddio.
Class pair Sam Dwyer and Cain headed the list with four.
Skipper John Baird missed out but could be satisfied with his 30 possessions.
He has struck a patch of form so purple his teammates should be calling him Alvin.
Champion rover Shane Valenti had 26 disposals, and Dwyer and Wooffindin 23.
Port also unveiled first-gamer Jason Williams as the 23rd man and the carrot-topped Calder Cannons graduate had 19 touches. Another new chum, Dean Grice, kicked three goals.
Ayres has mixed his recruits into a premiership team as effortlessly as he would a drink.
But he admitted to some worries before the match.
"I just thought we weren't as mentally focused as we could be," he said.
"Whether that was because last week (against Box Hill Hawks) was such a huge effort.
"There is a bit of self-satisfaction that tends to creep in. But I just thought during the week we just dropped a point or two in our intensity and just our effort and I think that showed in the first half."
Then came a comment on his players' fitness that will resonate around the league.
"I still think we're two or three weeks behind on our fitness. I really believe that. We didn't start until the end of November. We only had three practice matches. A lot of other sides had four. If we look at our data we're not right where we need to be."
The Borough host the Northern Blues on Saturday.
Port Melbourne 5.2 10.3 18.7 26.10 (166) d North Ballarat 3.3 7.8 8.9 12.10 (82)
PM goals: Dwyer 4 Cain 4 Grice 3 Galea 2 Pleming 2 Wooffindin 2 Gale Johnston Burstin Valenti Dillon Pitt Bonaddio Langford Skipper. Best: Baird Dwyer Cain Wooffindin Valenti Bonaddio
North Ballarat goals: Driscoll 4 Towers Sewell Giampaolo Mullett Grigg Curnow Evans Garlett. Best: Garlett Mullett Evans Hoy Couch Sewell