Suns beaten but not disgraced in Shanghai
GOLD Coast was unable to produce a Chinese knock-off on Saturday but coach Stuart Dew would have been thrilled his patched-together team kept ticking to the end of their 40-point loss to the Power.
Port Adelaide remain the Shanghai Masters after the 11.16 (82) at 6.6 (42) victory at Jiangwan Stadium.
Although the Suns didn't kick a goal in the last quarter, they kept Port to three goals, a vast improvement on the blowouts that have become a theme for the side.
The official crowd was 10,869 but in occasionally wet and windy conditions, the majority of them, including the AFL executive and their VIP guests, abandoned their seats for the comforts of the corporate tents.
The Suns' position in this match had been under siege and even the club is wondering whether it is the right fit for them.
The broadcasters and Port Adelaide want a Victorian club, rumoured to be St Kilda, to grow the TV audience back in Australia.
And when Victorian trade minister Phillip Dalidakis publicly called on AFL chief Gillon McLachlan to include a Melbourne team next year at the official function on Friday night, the pressure was on the Suns.
They could not afford another limp effort like last year when Port Adelaide smashed them by 72 points.
So injury depleted has the side become, nervous officials, off the record, were just wishing for a competitive effort.
They certainly got that.
It was the best showing under Dew since the round one victory over the Kangaroos.
With eight of Dew's preferred best 22 unavailable, he needed a game based on effort and desperate defence and that's what the Suns produced.
In the end, Port Adelaide had too much talent. Travis Boak, Ollie Wines and Tom Rockliff were pivotal for the Power.
The Suns suffered a massive blow when Jack Martin was struck by a stomach bug during the warm-up and had to pull out.
Matt Rosa came into the side and lasted less than a half before injuring his hamstring, sitting out the second half.
Martin's absence forced another change to a decimated Suns forward line that was already missing skipper Tom Lynch and Sam Day.
It left Dew with an inexperienced forward line, including first gamer Jacob Heron and third-gamers Brayden Crossley and Charlie Ballard.
Heron was far from overawed by the occasion and added another layer to his incredible story of being the first player to make his debut in China when he booted a goal with his first kick.
But the lack of size proved to be costly. The Suns simply couldn't take a mark inside their forward 50 and their only hope of staying with the Power rested with the defence's ability to stand up.
And it did admirably.
Jarrod Harbrow was superb, while Steven May won his battle with clever Port goal sneak Robbie Gray.
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