Ultimately, all that matters is being in front at the end.
The Eagles got over the line by 19 points against a determined St.Kilda side who defended fiercely and then were able to pierce their way through the Eagles zone for much of the night.
Josh Kennedy burst to life in the last quarter to boot three crucial goals after been well held by new Saints defender Nathan Brown for much of the night. Luke Shuey was arguably best on ground with 30 disposals and two goals while Andrew Gaff led all players on the field with 36 possessions. Seb Ross with 29 touches was the leading ball-getter for St.Kilda, while Dylan Robertan racked up 26 playing loose in defence for much of the night.
The Saints were humiliated by 103 points the last time they came to Subiaco, and without Nick Reiwoldt and David Armitage, were given little chance of taking the points. The chief destroyers for West Coast in that thrashing were Josh Kennedy who booted five opening quarter goals and Nic Naitanui who delivered his midfielders the ball on a platter through the centre.
But with Naitanui sidelined and Josh Kennedy nullified, the young Saints controlled the majority of the opening quarter. Tom Hickey revelled against his shorter opponents in Nathan Vardy and Jonathan Giles, as the Saints smashed West Coast in the clearances, leading 10-4. As a result the Saints were also dominating the inside-50’s and should have led by much further than they did at quarter time.
It took two Eagle turnovers from the kick in for the Saints to get early reward on the scoreboard. First Jeremy McGovern found Jade Gresham and then Shannon Hurn picked out Blake Acres. Before the Acres goal, West Coast had almost found levity with the Saints fast start, with Chris Masten and Josh Hill goaling in quick succession, but the Saints would finish the stronger for the quarter.
St.Kilda’s dynamic ball movement was causing problems for the home side but they continued to butcher the glut of chances at goal. West Coast on the other hand could thank their own efficiency for keeping them in the contest, booting 4.0 from as many inside-50’s to only trail by 19 at the first change.
As much as the Saints performance was in complete contrast to the prior meeting between the two sides (St.Kilda’s quarter time score of 6.7 outscored their previous final match score by 14 points), there was also a sense of similarity from how the two sides had begun in their respective season openers.
St.Kilda stormed out of the blocks against Melbourne to lead by 23 points at quarter time before surrendering in the second half as the Demon midfield were allowed to dominate. West Coast on the other hand overcame a gritty first half to run out comfortable winners against North Melbourne.
The home crowd may have been expecting a similar story to unfold, but were met with continued resistance from the visitors. Neither side could break the deadlock for much of the term, before Mark LeCras ended the drought heading into time-on. His goal was met immediately by Paddy McCartin before Luke Shuey got West Coast closer again after being awarded a 50m penalty.
Two Sharrod Wellingham errors in the back half allowed Leigh Montagna to stroll into an open goal to again give St.Kilda space before a lucky break turned the momentum of the quarter. Maverick Weller thought he snapped a goal to give St.Kilda a 25 point lead only for it to be overturned with Tom Barrass’ outstretched hand touching the ball off the boot. The Eagles responded with two goals in quick succession to draw within 9 points at the major break.
The two sides traded majors for the third term as St.Kilda found a way to answer every one of the Eagles challenges. West Coast were starting to wrest control around the stoppages and had the ball in their half for longer, but the Saints were capitalising on their forays forward. The Saints utilised a seven man defence and were making the Eagles work for their goals as the Eagle forwards struggled to find space. Conversely, the Saints were able to weather many of the Eagle attacks and then create their own chances once they could rebound through the Eagle zone.
However, like the opening quarter, the Saints couldn’t make the most of the scoring opportunities they were having, and finished the term with 4.5 to West Coast’s 5.2, as the Eagles crept ever closer.
The momentum of the game though was swinging towards West Coast, and even after the Saints moved to a 13 point lead when Tim Membrey kicked truly, the Eagles were winning the majority of areas on the ground.
Well held by Nathan Brown all night, Josh Kennedy stepped up with two strong contested marks to produce a his match-winning purple patch. It took until time-on of the fourth quarter but once West Coast hit the lead, the Saints looked to have given everything they had. West Coast finished with all of the running and Josh Hill and Chris Masten both kicked truly to put the icing on the cake and give West Coast an impressive first-up home win for 2017.
Match Details Saturday 1 April 2017
West Coast 4.0 8.3 13.5 18.8 (116)
St.Kilda 6.7 8.12 12.17 13.19 (97)
Subiaco Oval Attendance: 37,749
Goals: WC Kennedy 4, Hill 3, Darling, Masten, Shuey 2, Giles, Cripps, LeCras, Priddis, Vardy.
STK McCartin, Lonie, Weller, Bruce 2, Gresham, Dunstan, Acres, Membrey, Montagna.
Round 2 Season Total
5 Luke Shuey 7 Elliot Yeo
4 Elliot Yeo 6 Luke Shuey
3 Andrew Gaff 5 Sam Mitchell
2 Jeremy McGovern 5 Andrew Gaff
1 Matthew Priddis 4 Josh Kennedy
FORECAST – ROUND 3
West Coast will travel to the MCG for one of only two visits in 2017 to take on fellow undefeated side Richmond. There were no reported injuries from the match although Jeremy McGovern did cop a solid hit late in the match. Josh Kennedy also was crunched diving for a mark but both played out the end of the game. Sharrod Wellingham did have some treatment for an apparent wrist injury, but he too completed the game.
East Perth had a tight loss in the WAFL to Swan Districts and Francis Watson was again a standout for the Royals. Watson remains a rookie and would need to be upgraded to the senior list before he can make his debut, but is doing all the things right so far this season. Watson’s three games with East Perth this year have yielded 30, 24 and 30 possessions and his dashing attack of half-back is a desirable attribute in the style of football played this year.
Tom Lamb is another that is reminding the selectors of his worth taking 8 marks to go with his 16 possessions nad finishing with 1.3. Jack Darling’s underwhelming 2017 is continuing and while Lamb still needs to show consistency at the reserves level, his past two games with East Perth have been encouraging.
Fraser McInnes proved his worth in the ruck against the Swans ruck duo and compiled 17 disposals and a goal to go with 31 hit-outs. The Eagles will be hoping their rock stocks aren’t diminished any further, but McInnes could prove a viable option, once upgraded to the senior list.
Lewis Jetta collected 19 possessions from limited time on the ground, after initially being left out of the Eagles side because of a glute complaint. Scans during the week cleared him of serious damage and a late decision was made to including him at WAFL level to maintain his fitness base.
The Eagles were shown up for a lack of pace against the Saints who were able to break their defensive zone with a lot more zip. Jetta should return to the line up for Richmond, potentially at the expense of either Mark Hutchings or Dom Sheed who struggled with the intensity of the game. Jack Redden was also less influential than his performance against the Kangaroos.
Eric Mackenzie may have to win his spot in the senior side through the WAFL once again, with Tom Barrass stellar in the backline alongside Jeremy McGovern. Barrass had an intriguing battle with young Saints forward Paddy McCartin but took 10 marks and repelled many of the Saints forward thrusts. Will Schofield and Sam Butler are two other regular members of the Eagles backline who will have to keep pushing for selection in the WAFL, after serviceable games against Swan Districts.
The Eagles travel to the Melbourne Cricket Ground in Round 3 for one of two visits in 2017 to take on the similarly undefeated Tigers.