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Horne-Francis, Rankine produce match-winning effort in Saturday nailbiters

Jarred Cross -

Port Adelaide coach Ken Hinkley has praised Lachie Jones and Jason Horne-Francis for producing “big moments” in his side’s thriller come-from-behind win against Fremantle on Saturday night. 

Horne-Francis slotted the match winner with his only major of the contest after the Power lifted through a frantic final minutes to go 4-1 and slot into second spot on the ladder ahead of a blockbuster meeting with reigning premiers Collingwood in round six. 

After Charlie Dixon got Port back into touching distance in the dying stages, Horne-Francis got on the end of clearance work from Connor Rozee and Zak Butters to pluck a contested mark in front of goals and snap for the lead. 

Horne-Francis joked he was “pooping my pants” despite looking composed as he lined up for the kick speaking from the rooms after the game. 

“I've never really had a moment like that before. That was my first one. So I was pooping my pants a little bit,” he said.

“I think if it was any other kick I probably would have drop-punted it but I got nervous so I just snapped it. I was just trying to take my time and take seconds off the clock. 

“I don't think dad (former Port player Fabian Francis) will be happy with me snapping it, but I'm just glad it went through.”

The 20-year-old had 18 touches and four clearances in the contest to go along with the defining moment. 

Jase Burgoyne and Willie Rioli combined to clear the Dockers’ responding push into their front fifty.

With 28 seconds remaining, Rioli gifted Freo one last chance at a final-seconds shot for goal after spraying a kick over the boundary heading into their front fifty. 

The Power held on to 9.12 (66) - 9.9 (63) win.

Speaking post-match, Hinkley conceded his side were outplayed in major areas across the ground, but said Port people will “sit back and remember” efforts towards the win from some of the club’s Indigenous stars. 

“The Dixon mark and the Horne-Francis mark and goal...we'll sit back and remember those moments. And some of the boys behind the ball, Lachie Jones did have some big moments tonight for us when we needed him.”

Jones’ major contribution kept his side in it as Freo looked to build on a lead heading into half time. 

For the Dockers, skipper and Palawa man Alex Pearce was huge in restricting Dixon to two goals and just seven touches as their key target up front. 

Pearce was a huge presence in his side’s defensive fifty with 13 intercept marks, and was useful with ball in hand, collecting close to 10 possessions by quarter time and finishing with 20 for the match on their last line. 

His direct opposition and Hinkley, who labelled Pearce “the best tall back in the game” to start 2024, sang his praises after the game. 

“He dominated all night on me, to be honest,” Dixon said of Pearce post-match.

“I mean he's a big strong man and I struggled all night on him. I didn't know what to do…you want to play against the best and he's one of the best.”

At Marvel Stadium on Saturday afternoon, Izak Rankine was key to the Crows’ first win of 2024 after they snuck past Carlton in a nailbiter 16.4 (100) to 14.14 (98).

Rankine kicked three majors with a couple of misses and had a big presence with time up the ground collecting 23 touches, nine score involvements and two clearances in the upset.  

Rankine played a major role in the Crows first win over the Blues on Saturday. (Image: Facebook)

Crows coach Matthew Nicks said continued midfield time for Rankine was in his side’s future plans, but it was nothing new, with the 23-year-old set to be more involved in outings going forward. 

A blind grab running back with the flight of the ball and resulting short-range set shot brought his side within four points with five minutes remaining before shoring up the win through Sam Berry.

Rankine almost doubled his centre bounce appearances for the season with 20 against the Blues.

On Saturday night, Chad Cornes said he thought Rankine “was the best player on the ground”. 

“He’s their most skilful player and that stood out. He was the match-winner”. 

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