Port Melbourne secure 17th consecutive win at home against a testing Sandringham
Port Melbourne more demolishes than defeats teams at North Port Oval, and when it hustled to an early lead against Sandringham on Saturday, it appeared the Borough was on course for another cushy victory.
It led by 33 points at quarter time.
Spearhead Dean Galea had kicked three goals, and Port had players queuing to take possession and feed the forward line.
Without Beau Wilkes, Sandy's attack looked worryingly thin.
But the Zebras fought back from a rough start to make Port earn its 17th consecutive win at home.
The final margin was 30 points.
But Sandringham closed the gap to four points halfway through the last quarter after goals from Farren Ray, Darren Minchington and Tom Curren.
The rally reflected a holler of "we can finish over the top of them!'' at Sandringham's three-quarter-time huddle.
Port now had to find something.
Ruckman Wayde Skipper assumed the role of rover when he swooped on a crumb in the goalsquare.
A few minutes later Clayton Hinkley threaded a set-shot from the boundary line, silencing the Sandy supporters on the fence with a finger to his lips and taking Port's lead to 17 points.
Adrian Bonaddio and, after the siren, Billy Burstin extended it.
Remarkably, Port has never lost to the Zebras under the coaching of Gary Ayres, who took over in 2008.
Galea couldn't add to his tally after quarter-time, but Chris Cain and the increasingly impressive Sam O'Sullivan both kicked three goals to keep the Borough ticking over and reward the diligent work of midfielders John Baird, Toby Pinwill, Sam Dwyer and Mitch Wooffindin.
Ayres said Sandringham had improved since last season and he was expecting his team to be challenged.
"We know we're a good side and good sides can keep persisting and keep persevering and in the end I think we wore them down,'' he said.
"Bonnas' (Bonaddio) was terrific today, Sam Pleming was terrific, our leaders stood up in the last quarter. All in all it was a really good win against quality opposition.''
He highlighted Pinwill's
"committed efforts on the ground'' and Dwyer's 25 possessions.
"He should be playing AFL because he's one of the better players in the VFL,'' he said of Dwyer.
Sandy coach Simon McPhee said he thought his team could catch Port in the final quarter but in the end left itself too much to do.
"When you're coming from that far back it only takes one or two errors,'' he said.
"We made a couple of ball-use errors at critical stages and that was all she wrote.''
St Kilda youngsters Curren, half forward Sam Dunnell and Seb Ross were Sandy's best three players.
Midfielder Myke Cook was busy again and Heath Shepheard was stout in defence, taking the eye with his clearing dashes.
Skipper Beau Dowler (19 possessions) also had a decent match.
Port Melbourne 7.4, 8.8, 14.12, 18.16 (124) d Sandringham 2.1, 7.3, 10.6, 14.10 (94)
Port Melbourne goals: Galea 3 Cain 3 O'Sullivan 3 Burstin 2 Pinwill Valenti Wooffindin Baird Bonaddio Hinkley Skipper. Best: Dwyer Pleming Baird Noonan Cain Wooffindin
Sandringham goals: Polo 2 Coleman 2 Ray 2 Minchington 2 Cripps Archer Cook Curren Markworth Dunell.
Best: Curren Dunell Ross Cook Markworth Shepheard