Round four of the 2021 AFL season saw a clutch of tightly contested matches, with perhaps only one contest truly decided before the final quarter.

The round opened with a pair of contests decided by less than a kick, and whilst they were the two closest matches of the round, each and every game on round four contained more than its share of intrigue.

Here at Vendetta Sports Media we’ll be covering the entire AFL season for you. In case you missed it, all our team previews, and this writer’s ladder predictions, are located here.

Match of the Week: Port Adelaide Power vs Richmond Tigers

The Tigers traveled to Adelaide Oval for a rematch of 2020’s epic preliminary final. This time, the Power extracted some measure of revenge in a tight contest.

The match started quickly, Zak Butters and Tiger Kane Lambert exchanging goals inside four minutes. From there, the game slowed down dramatically, with both sides demonstrating a finals-like intensity. That resulted in skills execution that could be best described as patchy; Fox Sports commentator Garry Lyon going so far as to label each team’s kicking as ‘horrendous’.

Richmond have built this premiership era – three cups in four years – upon relentless pressure, imposing physicality, and fast transition play. On this occasion, however, the Power turned the tables. They dominated the clearances and forced the Tigers into making quick, backwards handballs to avoid the onrushing Power. The Power were able to lock the ball in their forward line for long stretches, but failed to turn that into scoreboard pressure.

Despite that intense Port Adelaide pressure, the Tigers were skilled and composed enough to break through the Port Adelaide press enough times to keep the game alive, giving Jack Reiwoldt opportunities to hit the scoreboard. The veteran forward rewarded his teammate’s hard work with three first half goals, keeping the margin to seven points at the half.

Despite their dominance, the Power’s injury list was concerning, with Zak Butters, Connor Rozee, Tom Curley, Aliir Aliir and Orazio Fantasia all hobbled by half time. The Tigers opened up the third term looking to take advantage of that, Jason Castagna and Tom Lynch kicking goals to restore Richmond’s lead. Port Adelaide’s pressure again showed through a burst of three goals in five minutes later in the term to see the Power hold an 11 point lead as the teams rounded the final corner.

Richmond, champions that they are, ratcheted up the pressure in the final term, turning the table on an exhausted Port Adelaide team. Superstar Dustin Martin opened the scoring with a Dusty classic – a fend off followed by a kick around the corner – before Mitch Georgiades answered after a downfield free kick. With Xavier Duursma’s knee injury adding to Port Adelaide’s walking wounded, the Tigers pounced. Jamie Aarts kicked a fine rovers goal as the Power defended desperately. After Kane Lambert – the hero of last year’s final – slotted a close range goal to give the Tigers a two point lead, the Power looked dead on their feet.

Cometh the hour….cometh the man. As he has so often, veteran forward Robbie Gray came to Port Adelaide’s rescue. A hurried kick out of the centre landed in the 33 year old’s lap in his favoured right forward flank, just inside the forward 50 arc. With so many clutch goals across his 241 games for the Power, Gray was never going to miss this set shot. He cooly slotted the go ahead goal and from there, the Power defended to as if their lives depended on it. The Tigers missed a gilt edged chance to steal the game in the final minute and the Power finally felt the relief of the final siren.

The Power’s brave rearguard action in the face of their injury crisis was led courageously by veteran Travis Boak and hard nut Ollie Wines. Scott Lycett’s performance in the ruck was the catalyst for Port Adelaide’s pressure game, and Aliir’s battle with Reiwoldt was enthralling. Despite the Tiger’s three goals, Aliir could lay claims to halving that particular battle.

Martin was fantastic for Richmond and captain Trent Cotchin played his best game of the early season. Veteran half back Bachar Houli, playing his first game of the season after suffering injury in last year’s grand final, looked like he’d never been away.

The victory moves Port Adelaide into the top four ahead of their clash at Carlton, whilst the Tigers slip to 2-2, with a potential banana peel in St Kilda next on their fixture list.

Port Adelaide Power: 11 goals, 13 behinds (79)

Richmond Tigers: 11 goals, 11 behinds (77)

Goals

Power: Motlop 2, Rozee 2, Butters, Fantasia, Duursma, Houston, Hartlett, Gray, Georgiades

Richmond: Reiwoldt 3, Lambert 2, Bolton, Short, Castagna, Lynch, Martin, Aarts

Best

Power: Boak, Wines, Butters, Lycett, Motlop, Aliir

Richmond: Cotchin, Martin, Short, Houli, Bolton, Broad

Onto the other games of round four of the AFL season.

Sydney Swans 11 goals, 17 behinds (83) defeated Essendon Bombers 12 goals, 8 behinds (80)

Goals

Sydney: Franklin 3, Reid 2, McInerney 2, Parker, Papley, Florent, Mills

Essendon: Stringer 3, Hooker 3, Waterman 2, Cox, Smith, Parish, Jones

Best

Sydney: Parker, Lloyd, Warner, Kennedy, Mills, Gulden

Essendon: Merrett, Ridley, Cox, Stringer, Parish

The upstart Swans have been a pleasure to watch in 2021, scoring in triple figures in every game leading up to this contest. Here, they proved they can win ugly, as well. The Bombers laid on six straight goals – including a ripper from Darcy Parish – either time of quarter time to open up 25 point lead before the Swans kicked five in a row of their own to even up the contest. Sydney had the chance to kick away but inaccuracy in front of goal cost them. A tight match was finally put to bed with a Buddy Franklin snap; his 3rd goal of the night and the 950th of his illustrious career.

Western Bulldogs 10 goals, 13 behinds (73) defeated Brisbane Lions 8 goals, 6 behinds (54)

Goals

Bulldogs: English 3, Naughton 2, Bruce, Hunter, Liberatore, Macrae, Smith

Brisbane: Hipwood 2, Andrews, Fullarton, Lyons, Bailey, McCluggage, Daniher

Best

Bulldogs: Treloar, Macrae, English, Dunkley, Naughton, Dale

Brisbane: McCluggage, Rich, Neale, Andrew, Lyons

The ladder leading Bulldogs made their annual pilgrimage to wet and windy Ballarat, interestingly starting a trio of big forwards in conditions seemingly tailor made for smalls. As with most things Dogs coach Luke Beverage has tried this season, it worked. Tim English led all scorers with three goals in a dominant display. The Dogs were never really headed in a match that they were able to control from the outset. The Lions made a late push, sparked by a happy accident from Joe Daniher, but the Dogs steadied to keep their perfect record intact.

St Kilda Saints 15 goals, 12 behinds (102) defeated West Coast Eagles 13 goals, 4 behinds (82)

Goals

St Kilda: King 5, Butler 3, Membrey 2, Billings 2, Steele, McKenzie, Higgins

West Coast: Petrucelle 4, Darling 2, Allen 2, Kennedy 2, Ryan, Cripps, Winder

Best

St Kilda: Steele, King, Hill, Crouch, Butler

West Coast: Petrucelle, Darling, McGovern, Sheed, Naitanui

The Saints got their season back on track with a stirring come from behind victory. Training by 33 points midway through the third quarter, St Kilda came to life, rattling off the final eight goals of the game to stun the Eagles. Former Tigers pair Daniel’s Butler and McKenzie scored three goals between them in a five minute span to get the ball rolling. Young key forward Max King booting a career high five goals. Jack Petrucelle kicked a team high four goals for the Eagles, including a burst of two in as many minutes late in the first quarter.

Gold Coast Suns 8 goals 11 behinds (59) lost to Carlton Blues 9 goals, 16 behinds (70)

Goals

Gold Coast: Sexton 2, Ainsworth, Burgess, Ellis, Greenwood, King, Weller

Carlton: McKay 2, Murphy 2, Betts, Casboult, Cottrell, Cripps, Curnow

Best

Gold Coast: Miller, Greenwood, Swallow, Bowes, Anderson, Ellis

Carlton: Curnow, Jones, Walsh, Docherty, Weitering, Petrevski-Seton

On a slippery, dewy night at Carrara, the Suns and Blues played out a tight, dour affair. Carlton were good value for their victory, despite the margin never moving beyond 14 points at any time in the game. The game was sealed late on with the otherwise quiet Harry McKay – kicking for the injured Jack Silvagni – bending in a tight snap from the boundary. Ed Curnow’s 32 possessions led a strong, balanced Carlton midfield, whilst Liam Jones was a wall in the Blues back line. The match-up between young stars Jacob Weitering and Ben King was enthralling, with the Carlton defender taking the points. An honourable loss for the much improved Suns.

Collingwood Magpies 9 goals, 6 behinds (60) lost to Greater Western Sydney Giants 14 goals, 6 behinds (90)

Goals

Collingwood: De Goey 2, Hoskin-Elliott 2, Daicos, Madgen, McCreery, Thomas, Mihocek

Giants: Greene 5, Finlayson 4, Kelly 2, Hill, Himmelberg, Riccardi

Best

Collingwood: Sidebottom, Crisp, Madgen, Howe, Daicos

Giants: Greene, Finlayson, Kelly, Ward, Ash, Hooper, Taranto

In a battle of two severely under performing sides, it was the Magpies who fell flat. The final margin perhaps flattered the Giants, who broke their duck on the season with three late goals to inflate the difference somewhat, but they were good value for the win. Toby Greene was immense, kicking five goals and setting up three more, eviscerating young Isaac Quaynor before All Australian defender Brayden Maynard was able to curtail his influence a little. The Giants midfield was dominant all night, Callan Ward, Tim Taranto and Jacob Hopper all topping 30 disposals. Collingwood pushed late on, but a pair of 4th quarter Josh Kelly goals put down any thoughts of a Magpies come-from-behind victory.

North Melbourne Kangaroos 10 goals, 8 behinds (68) lost to Adelaide Crows 16 goals, 13 behinds (109)

Goals

North Melbourne: Larkey 3, Stephenson 2, Goldstein 2, Thomas 2, Phillips

Adelaide: Walker 3, Fogarty 3, McAdam 3, Schoenberg 2, Murphy, O’Brien, Seedsman, School, Rowe

Best

North Melbourne: Hall, Simpkin, Stephenson, Powell, Thomas, Ziebell

Adelaide: Laird, Doedee, O’Brien, Scholl, Seedsman, Smith

After last week’s evisceration, pride was on the line for the Roos. For three quarters, at least, they could hold their heads high. The Crows started fast with a pair of goals to Coleman Medal leader Taylor Walker, though the Roos stayed in touch throughout the first half. A stirring third term saw North Melbourne kick three unanswered goals to head into the final break with a four point lead. The Crows, however, answered the challenge emphatically, slamming on eight goals to one in the final term to run out comfortable 41 point victors. Rory Laird was impressive for Adelaide with 31 disposals.

Melbourne Demons 12 goals, 13 behinds (85) defeated Geelong Cats 9 goals 6 behinds (60)

Goals

Melbourne: Fritsch 4, Petracca 2, Jones, Neal-Bullen, Pickett, Gawn, Langdon, Melksham

Geelong: Hawkins 2, Smith 2, Henry 2, Miers, Clark, Stanley

Best

Melbourne: Lever, Petracca, Gawn, Fritsch, Viney, Oliver, Langdon

Geelong: Selwood, Stewart, Atkins, Kolodjashnij, C Guthrie

The Dees improved to 4-0 for the first time since 1994 with an emphatic win over a fancied Cats outfit. Melbourne controlled the game from the outset – they led all day – only inaccuracy in front of goal keeping the margin manageable for Geelong. Bayley Fritsch broke the game open with three 2nd quarter goals as well as an assist to Christian Petracca, who goaled right on the half time siren. With star Demons fullback Steven May injured, the Cats began to gain a foothold in the 3rd quarter, Isaac Smith kicking a pair of late goals to reduce the margin to 12 points at the final change. The Dees new found maturity was evident, however, as they steadied to run out comfortable 25 point winners. The Demons didn’t have a passenger, though Petracca, Fritsch, Clayton Oliver and Jake Lever stood out. Joel Selwood battled manfully for the Cats.

Fremantle Dockers 13 goals, 18 points (96) defeated Hawthorn Hawks 12 goals, 9 behinds (81)

Goals

Fremantle: Darcy 3, Taberner 2, Colyer 2, Mundy, Acres, Chapman, Walters, Frederick, Sturt

Hawthorn: Moore 3, Wingard, Hartley, Morrison, Howe, Phillips, Lewis, Mitchell, O’Brien, Brockman

Best

Fremantle: Fyfe, Mundy, Darcy, Conca, Serong, Cerra, Chapman

Hawthorn: Jiath, Mitchell, O’Meara, Worpel, Moore, Wingard

The Dockers came out of the blocks as if shot out of a cannon, slamming on five unanswered first quarter goals; a rout looked on the cards. But as with every other game this round, the Hawks were able to regroup and answer, kicking five goals of their own against a single major to Docker Blake Acres in the second quarter, to cut the half time margin to a manageable 13 points. Both sides traded punches in the second half. With neither team able to wrest an advantage after half time, the Dockers narrow first half ascendancy was enough to see them chalk up their 2nd win of the year. As always, Tom Mitchell (37 possessions) was the star man for the Hawks. Returning Dockers skipper Nat Fyfe had 31 of his own, as well as a barely believable six behinds without a goal. Reece Conca held Hawks forward Luke Breust goalless in a brilliant defensive performance.

Coleman Medal leader board (League’s leading goal kicker)

Taylor Walker (Adelaide) – 20 goals

Josh Bruce (Bulldogs) – 15

Harry McKay (Carlton) – 15

Toby Greene (Giants) – 14

Josh Kennedy (West Coast) – 12

Cale Hooker (Essendon) – 12

Jack Reiwoldt (Richmond) – 12

Ben King (Gold Coast) – 11

#ClubMPts%ForAgtThis WeekProjectedNext
1W Bulldogs416171.1 %409239Won vs B.L.
73 β€“ 54
1st: 64 pts, 131 %Saturday
vs G.C.
2Melbourne416138.2 %358259Won vs Geel
85 β€“ 60
2nd: 60 pts, 118 %Sunday
@ Haw
3Sydney416133.5 %446334Won vs Ess
83 β€“ 80
4th: 56 pts, 112 %Saturday
vs GWS
4Port Adel412122.5 %386315Won vs Rich
79 β€“ 77
5th: 52 pts, 111 %Saturday
@ Carl
5Adelaide412108.2 %395365Won @ N.M.
109 β€“ 68
13th: 40+ pts, 94 %Sunday
vs Freo
6WC Eagles48110.6 %366331Lost @ St.K
82 β€“ 102
9th: 44 pts, 103 %Friday
vs Coll
7Carlton48103.0 %344334Won @ G.C.
70 β€“ 59
7th: 48 pts, 105 %Saturday
vs P.A.
8Richmond48102.2 %332325Lost @ P.A.
77 β€“ 79
3rd: 56 pts, 115 %Thursday
@ St.K
9Fremantle4893.6 %305326Won vs Haw
96 β€“ 81
11th: 40 pts, 95 %Sunday
@ Adel
10Geelong4890.7 %301332Lost @ Melb
60 β€“ 85
8th: 48 pts, 104 %Sunday
vs N.M.
11St Kilda4883.5 %329394Won vs WCE
102 β€“ 82
14th: 40 pts, 92 %Thursday
vs Rich
12Essendon44104.7 %379362Lost @ Syd
80 β€“ 83
10th: 40 pts, 103 %Saturday
@ B.L.
13Gold Coast44104.5 %300287Lost vs Carl
59 β€“ 70
17th: 28 pts, 85 %Saturday
@ W.B.
14Collingwood4491.8 %291317Lost vs GWS
60 β€“ 90
15th: 36 pts, 95 %Friday
@ WCE
15GWS Giants4487.2 %292335Won @ Coll
90 β€“ 60
16th: 36 pts, 94 %Saturday
@ Syd
16Brisbane4485.8 %301351Lost @ W.B.
54 β€“ 73
6th: 48 pts, 108 %Saturday
vs Ess
17Hawthorn4485.6 %286334Lost @ Freo
81 β€“ 96
12th: 40– pts, 95 %Sunday
vs Melb
18North Melb4043.0 %211491Lost vs Adel
68 β€“ 109
18th: 16– pts, 63 %Sunday
@ Geel