The Eagles joined the Crows at the head of the ladder, following a hard-earned win over North Melbourne at Subiaco Oval.
West Coast were given a helping hand from cross-town rivals Fremantle, who upset the Crows at Football Park, leaving both the Eagles and Crows on 15 wins after Round 19. Adelaide held on to top spot courtesy of a superior percentage, but with two losses and a small win over Collingwood in the past three weeks, the Crows were starting to look shaky.
The Eagles meantime made it three wins in a row taking care of a Kangaroos outfit that were missing several players, including Glen Archer and Shannon Grant through injury. Sitting in 12th position coming into the game, the visitors were still in the game during the third quarter, but were eventually overpowered.
The Eagles though could have won the game by a far greater margin if not for poor kicking, particularly in the final quarter. Brent Staker was the key offender for West Coast, finishing with 1.5.
Daniel Kerr, Chris Judd and Ben Cousins again led the Eagles, with the three key midfielders the top possession getters for the home side.
The Eagles were boosted by the return of lead ruckman Dean Cox, who had missed the previous six weeks with a broken collarbone. Cox’ return was the only change to the side who defeated St.Kilda, with Brett Jones making way.
Cox had only a minor influence on the game, with Seaby still taking many of the centre bounces. Cox and Seaby had an intriguing battle with North ruckmen David Hale and Hamish McIntosh, and although the Eagles duo slightly won the hit-outs, the Kangaroos were able to match the Eagles in the clearances.
Adam Simpson and Daniel Harris led the way for the Kangaroos, but for all the work in the stoppages, the Kangaroos struggled to breach their half forward line. Beau Waters was the one in the way, with the sweeping half-back collecting 27 disposals and 11 marks as he repelled many of North Melbourne’s attacks.
In the Eagles forward half, Quinten Lynch led the way with four goals. Lynch had two in the opening quarter, including an 80m bomb from the centre square, as West Coast slammed on seven for the term. Lynch had a third when Chris Judd marched from the opening bounce of the 2nd quarter, and West Coast’s lead stretched out past four goals.
It seemed a matter of how far, but the Kangaroos worked their way back into the contest.
North finished with the final four goals of the term to reduce the margin to just one point at half-time. Along with Simpson and Harris, Jess Sinclair was providing plenty of run from North’s defensive half, even after being crunched by Daniel Chick that forced him from the field.
The third quarter started goal for goal, but the home side showed signs of re-establishing their first quarter dominance closing in on the final break, and some late goals gave the Eagles a 13 point lead at the final break. The final term was all West Coast, and had they kicked straight, it could have been a much more comprehensive victory on the scoreboard.
However, the Eagles could only manage 2.9 and had to settle for a final margin of 26 points.
Kerr, Cousins and Judd were the stars, but Tyson Stenglein and Adam Selwood were also both influential through the midfield. Andrew Embley finished with 24 disposals and also booted three goals to be the Eagles only other multiple goalscorer, with Lynch.
Down back, Darren Glass continued his stellar season, restricting Saverio Rocca to just seven possessions and two goals, Jaymie Graham also held Nathan Thompson to seven possessions, and Leigh Harding struggled against David Wirrpanda. Only Corey Jones was able to provide a regular option up forward, finishing with three goals from 19 disposals.
Although the win pushed the Eagles into joint premiership favouritism, it wasn’t all good news. Ashley Hansen injured a knee in the opening minutes of the game and played no further part, while Daniel Chick was later reported for a hit on Jess Sinclair, and suspended for a week.
But the Eagles were still big winners across the weekend. Along with Adelaide’s loss to Fremantle, the Swans defeated the third-placed Melbourne, leaving the Eagles and Crows three games clear in the top two, with three rounds left of the home-and-away season.
Sydney moved up to third with their win, but only one win and percentage separated them and the Bulldogs in 8th. Although the top eight had been settled for several weeks, the logjam for positions in the lower half was set to intensify.
Match Details Saturday 12 August 2006
West Coast 7.5 8.7 12.14 14.23 (107)
North Melb 4.3 8.6 11.7 12.9 (81)
Subiaco Oval Attendance: 40,067
Best: WC Kerr, Cousins, Judd, Waters, Lynch, Embley, Glass, Stenglein, A Selwood, Chick
NTH Sinclair, Harris, Simpson, C Jones, L Brown, Harvey
Goals: WC Lynch 4, Embley 3, Cox, Sampi, Kerr, Staker, Fletcher, Cousins, Seaby.
NTH Thompson, C Jones 3, Rocca, Harvey 2, Harding Pratt.
Brownlow: 3. C Judd (WC)
2. D Kerr (WC)
1. B Cousins (WC)