Port Melbourne are on the board for season 2016, after registering their first victory for the year over a gallant Coburg Lions outfit by 10 points at North Port Oval on Saturday afternoon.
In a match that was dominated by both defensive units, the Borough kept Coburg at arm’s length all day before having to pull out all stops to hold off a withering finish by the Lions off the back of an unstoppable final quarter from Ahmed Saad.
Returning to their home deck after a short six-day turnaround, Port started off well enough against a hungry Lions side, who were still smarting from an unlucky loss to the North Ballarat Roosters in their season opener.
The first term was highlighted by two booming goals from outside the arc by Khan Haretuku and Sam Crocker, and helped hand the side an 11-point advantage at the first change.
Light rain began to fall in the second quarter and it seemed to impact the efficiency of both sides. Despite controlling the majority of general play, the Borough struggled to kick away from the plucky Coburg, and it was only a pivotal mark and goal by Scott Clarke after the half-time siren that had increased the lead at the major break to 18 points.
Only another three goals were added in the third, but there was a sense that a late goal to defender-cum-forward Luke Tynan would be enough to break Coburg’s resistance as Port turned for home with a game-high 28-point lead.
It wasn’t to be however, as the Saad-led Lions went on a rampage to slam through five of the next six goals and send shockwaves through the Borough faithful.
Enter the captain.
After being kept reasonably quiet in the first half, Toby Pinwill was rewarded for laying his 15th tackle at the 29-minute mark of the last quarter; before coolly slotting the resultant free kick to hand his side a 10-point buffer and subsequently ice the contest.
A couple of minutes later, the siren blew across North Port, with the scoreboard showing the Borough getting home; 12.12.84 to Coburg 11.8.74.
Fellow veteran Chris Cain was a standout all day, his class and polish even more recognisable in such a tight and scrappy game. Khan Haretuku continued to show signs of relishing his new role in the ruck, whilst recruited defenders Brody Mihocek and Sam Crocker were also named amongst the best. Scott Clarke stepped up in the absence of key forward Jordan Lisle, as he was the side’s only multiple goal kicker with three.
A sour note to come out of the game was a minor groin injury to impressive youngster Nick Dixon, who is expected to miss 1-2 weeks.
Earlier in the afternoon, the Development League side were disappointing in going down to an impressive Coburg by a whopping 64 points.
Harvey Hooper and Josh Halsall were among the rare couple of players to push a case for Senior selection. Pleasingly, classy forward Josh Scipione got through another game in his return from injury and is also expected to go close to gaining a promotion this week.
Both sides will front up to the Northern Blues in Round 3 at Cramer Street on Saturday; with the Seniors to face a particularly challenging assignment as the Blues come off an impressive 14-point win over Geelong.
Development League will get underway at 11:00am, followed by the Senior game at 2:00pm.
Port Melbourne 4.4-28 8.6-54 10.10-70 12.12-84
Coburg 2.5-17 5.6-36 6.6-42 11.8-74
Goal Kickers: S. Clarke 3, T. Pinwill, K. Haretuku, J. Tynan, B. Pearson, S. Crocker, D. Mascitti, L. Waddell, H. Sandilands, S. Lange.
Best Players: T. Pinwill, B. Mihocek, H. Sandilands, S. Clarke, S. Crocker, K. Haretuku.
Port Melbourne 1.4-10 2.5-17 3.5-23 4.8-32
Coburg 4.2-26 6.5-41 11.6-72 15.6-96
Goal Kickers: S. Murray, S. Bennett, H. Hooper, M. Tang.
Best Players: H. Hooper, J. Halsall, J. Scipione, M. Hayes, J. McKenzie, D. Beddison.
Photo courtesy of Tony Cannatelli.