West Coast withstood a second half Power charge to record an important 10 point win that has temporarily released the pressure on the Eagles suspect away record.
The Eagles lost most of the key statistical factors in the game, but an efficient forward line and a resolute defence got the Eagles over the line. West Coast were one of a number of outsiders that claimed victory in Round 7 of the AFL, and with other results going the Eagles way, West Coast were able to jump into the top four.
Port Adelaide had a staggering 29 more inside 50’s for the game, and won the clearances and disposal count, but couldn’t reel in an Eagles side that got the decisive break in the game straight after half time.
In the opening ten minutes of the third term, Jack Darling goaled twice and Chris Masten and Josh Hill also booted goals, as West Coast extended an eight point half time lead to a game high 33 points.
The early quarter blitz sprung the Power into action, and the home side dominated the remainder of the game. However, the Eagles led by captain Shannon Hurn and intercept kings Jeremy McGovern and Tom Barrass provided a brave resistance.
From midway through the third term until the final siren, the Power had the majority of the forward half possession, but they couldn’t capitalise on the glut of forward 50 entries. Following the Eagles four goal burst, the Power had the next six scoring shots during the third term but could only manage a wasteful 1.5.
Mark LeCras booted a steadier for West Coast before Paddy Ryder responded and the Power had closed to 21 points at the final change and appeared to have all the momentum.
The Eagles got the first goal of the final term through Elliot Yeo who pounced on a Port Adelaide turnover deep in the West Coast forward line, but the game once again reverted to the Power’s terms.
Travis Boak and Charlie Dixon both goaled as West Coast struggled to get the ball beyond the centre circle. Paddy Ryder was becoming a force around the ground and in the ruck as Port Adelaide repeatedly pushed forward.
West Coast’s only chance to score was on the counter attack, and Josh Kennedy once again gave West Coast breathing space with his second of the afternoon. Matthew Broadbent kicked a long bomb but Brad Sheppard booted a rare goal to keep the Power at bay.
Brad Ebert reduced the margin to seven points in time-on, but that would be as close as they could get, as West Coast repelled long enough for Port Adelaide to run out of time.
Adam Simpson praised his defence in the face of the Port Adelaide onslaught.
“I’m really proud of our players and our backline in particular for handling 68 inside 50’s. Most of our defenders won most of their contests and turned a 40-60 into a 60-40.”
Brad Sheppard shut down Robbie Gray, keeping the Power superstar goalless and only 15 disposals, with just three kicks. Along with Gray, Aaron Young and Jackson Trengove also failed to hit the scoreboard, as the Power relied too heavily on Charlie Dixon.
Dixon was arguably the Power’s best, along with Paddy Ryder, finishing with three goals from 22 disposals and ten marks. Chad Wingard was the Power’s best midfielder with 34 disposals, eight clearances and nine inside-50’s. Brad Ebert also had 30 disposals and Jaspar Pittard collected 27 from half-back.
Earlier, it was the Eagles who were stronger around the clearances, with a number of takeaways from the centre bounce resulting in goals. Matthew Priddis was the architect around the ball, eventually finishing the match with 26 disposals, 16 contested, nine clearances, six inside-50s and three tackles. The Brownlow Medallist has been a slow starter in 2017 but has shown signs of his best in the past fortnight.
Mark LeCras was the early benefactor with three goals in the opening quarter, before adding a fourth in the final term after picking off a horror kick across goal from defender Jack Hombsch. His tally of four equalled his best effort against Port Adelaide.
Andrew Gaff provided plenty of run, particularly in the first half, while Elliot Yeo stood tall in the final quarter with the game on the line. Yeo finished as the major ball winner for West Coast with 27, ahead of Priddis and Luke Shuey with 26 and Gaff on 25.
Match Details Saturday 6 May 2017
West Coast 4.1 7.3 12.4 15.7 (97)
Port Adelaide 2.3 5.7 7.13 12.15 (87)
Adelaide Oval Attendance: 38,333
Goals: WC LeCras 4, Kennedy, Darling, Hill 2, Masten, Mutimer, Sheed, Sheppard, Yeo.
PTA Dixon 3, Impey 2, S Gray, Wingard, Boak, Broadbent, Ebert, Ryder, Westhoff.
EAGLE EYE VOTES
Round 7 Season Leaderboard
5 Elliot Yeo 20 Luke Shuey
4 Matthew Priddis 20 Elliot Yeo
3 Brad Sheppard 11 Andrew Gaff
2 Tom Barrass 11 Matthew Priddis
1 Mark LeCras 8 Josh Kennedy
ROUND 8 FORECAST
West Coast host the Bulldogs on Friday night football with a big opportunity to cement themselves inside the top four. The Bulldogs eliminated the Eagles in the 2016 finals series in what was the beginning of a fairytale run to the premiership.
Liam Duggan was a late withdrawal for the clash with Port Adelaide due to a corked thigh suffered against Fremantle but is set to return for the game against the Bulldogs. Mark Hutchings came into the side as his replacement but could only manage 12 disposals, as did Jack Redden who has had a quiet few weeks.
Kurt Mutimer backed up his debut with a solid second game, including his first AFL goal, and Dom Sheed also showed signs that he was starting to reach AFL match fitness.
Nathan Vardy and Jon Giles were well beaten by Paddy Ryder, both in the ruck and around the ground, but with the Eagles ruck stocks at the bare minimum, will hold their spots for the Bulldogs. One question mark may be how much Vardy is affected by his elbow injury, with Fraser McInnes waiting in the wings following his upgrade to the senior list.
The Royals had the bye in the WAFL, meaning many fringe players missed out on an opportunity to push for selection. McInnes and Malcolm Karpany both travelled to Adelaide as emergencies, along with Hutchings, and would appear to be the first call should there be any other changes with Duggan.