For the second week in a row the Eagles held strong in a dour final quarter to record a narrow victory.
Having survived a Power onslaught the week before, the Eagles withstood a late charge from the reigning premiers to record their sixth win of the season by 8 points.
Neither side could find their range in front of goal with Eagles full forward Josh Kennedy the main instigator. Kennedy booted 3.6, one of the most inaccurate performances of his career, while West Coast could manage just 1.9 in the second half.
It proved to be enough however, against admittedly an undermanned Bulldogs side. The reigning premiers couldn’t call upon Jake Stringer, Josh Dunkley, Dale Morris and Travis Cloke due to injury, while also resisting to bring back the likes of Mitch Wallis, Jordan Roughead, Tory Dickson and Stewart Crameri who all represented the VFL side. Captain Bob Murphy was also spared the trip to Perth.
Despite the omissions, the Bulldogs started the better side, but couldn’t translate the early control into scoreboard pressure. Jack Redpath marked his return from a third knee reconstruction with the opening goal of the game, but Luke Dahlhaus and Jack Macrae both missed gettable shots.
The Eagles started to get the game played on their terms, with Sam Mitchell and Andrew Gaff the architects. Mitchell played off half-back setting up the Eagles play, collecting 11 disposals in the opening quarter. Gaff provided the run between the arcs to pick up 9 touches and West Coast finished with the final four goals of the term.
West Coast continued to control the game after the first change, but were doing their best to keep the Bulldogs in the match. Jeremy McGovern turned the ball over with a sloppy handball that resulted in a goal to Lukas Webb, and Marcus Adams pounced on a spilled Tom Barrass mark to get his first of the game.
The Eagles were winning plenty of the ball, but it took Andrew Gaff’s long range set shot to give West Coast a break. Dom Sheed booted his second deep in time-on to stretch the Eagles lead towards four goals, but Jack Redpath twice got out the back of the Eagles defence to reduce the margin to 11 points on the brink of half-time.
Josh Kennedy goaled in the dying seconds of the half to put West Coast 17 points up at the main change. Andrew Gaff and Sam Mitchell had 19 and 18 disposals respectively, while Sheed had 13 and two goals in a high half forward role.
Four goals were booted in the final few minutes of the first half, but only four more goals would be scored for the remainder of the game as the Bulldogs closed the Eagles down.
Josh Kennedy booted the opening goal of the third term and for much of the term it seemed as though the Eagles were set to break the game apart, but would ultimately only score a further eight behinds in the game. Kennedy would boot three of those in quick succession during the final term as a nervous home crowd watched a persistent Bulldogs side reel in the Eagles lead.
The Bulldogs strangled the Eagles creative run of the first half, with Eagles defenders unable to do more than hack the ball out of their area in the face of the Bulldogs manic pressure.
Despite their forward dominance, the Bulldogs could only manage one goal for term deep in time on through Toby McLean.
The Bulldogs continued to press in the final term and after Kennedy’s string of misses, the Eagles were made to pay. Easton Wood followed the ball from defence to run into an open goal and then Lukas Webb scored his second goal of the night from the goal square after Marcus Adams out-marked a couple of Eagles.
Adams and Jason Johannissen both missed shots on goal that would have reduced the margin to under a goal but despite a string of inside-50’s, they were denied by a resilient Eagle defence, led by Elliot Yeo. Roaming across half back, Yeo – who had spent time on Bulldogs playmaker Marcus Bontempelli at the start of the game – had 13 disposals in the final term, including several intercept possessions.
Yeo’s final term was bettered only by Bulldog Caleb Daniel who had 15 possessions as part of the Bulldogs final quarter surge. Daniel finished with 30 in the game, behind only Jack Macrae who had 32. Jason Johannissen provided plenty of run out of defence.
Andrew Gaff finished with 35 disposals for the winners, while Sam Mitchell had 33 despite a quiet second half. It would be the 118th occasion in Mitchell’s career that he had gathered more than 30 disposals in a game, equalling the record held by St.Kilda champion Robert Harvey.
Match Details Friday 12 May 2017
West Coast 4.2 8.6 9.10 9.15 (69)
W Bulldogs 1.4 5.7 6.11 8.13 (61)
Subiaco Oval Attendance: 38,934
Goals: WC Kennedy 3, Sheed, Darling 2, Gaff, Duggan.
WB Redpath 3, Webb 2, Adams, McLean, Wood.
EAGLE EYE VOTES
Round 8 Season Leaderboard
5 Andrew Gaff 21 Elliot Yeo
4 Sam Mitchell 20 Luke Shuey
3 Chris Masten 16 Andrew Gaff
2 Josh Kennedy 11 Matthew Priddis
1 Elliot Yeo 11 Sam Mitchell
ROUND 9 FORECAST
Following a third straight win, it is hard to see many changes for the game against Essendon, although management of Sam Mitchell may start to play a part. Although he missed the Round 5 loss to Hawthorn, Mitchell may choose to take a break either this week, or in a fortnight’s time when the Eagles travel to the Gold Coast.
It was an even contribution by the Eagle players in their win over the Bulldogs, although it is fair to say that Josh Hill had a dirty day. Hill managed just 10 disposals, failed to hit the scoreboard, and had just two tackles, although he did have some important pressure acts in the closing stages of the game.
Jack Darling’s inconsistent season continued, with a number of poor errors during the game. Twice he gave away unnecessary free kicks when the Eagles had opportunities to go forward, and he finished the match with six clangers from 11 possessions at a disposal efficiency of 55%. Conversely, Fraser McInnes did more than enough to hold his place as support ruck for Nathan Vardy and also provided a commanding presence in the forward line.
A couple of young guns may be monitored during the week. Liam Duggan received another knock on his thigh, after copping a cork a fortnight ago that forced him to miss the Port Adelaide game, while Tom Barrass may be due for a rest, with Adam Simpson conceding that the 20-gamer is suffering from fatigue. Barrass lowered his colours during the game against Marcus Adams and Jack Redpath, a week after being well beaten by Charlie Dixon.
East Perth returned to the field after a bye last week, and made it three wins in a row with an 87 point thrashing of a hapless East Fremantle side. Draftee Daniel Venables led the goalkicking with four, while another young Eagle in Matthew Allen finished with three. Luke Partington returned from injury and continued his stellar early season form collecting 30 disposals, while Eric Mackenzie played a different role to what he would normally have been used too.
Mackenzie played forward, and also spent time in the ruck, as he filled the void left by McInnes who was on Eagles duties. Mackenzie finished with 1.3 from 17 disposals and nine marks, and also managed 13 hit-outs, working in tandem with another Eagles in Jon Giles. Mark Hutchings did all he could do following his demotion in gathering 31 disposals and 10 tackles, but Lewis Jetta struggled with just 16 possessions.
The Eagles are also set to enjoy some relief with their injury list with a number of players set to return to full training. Jamie Cripps, Jackson Nelson and Willie Rioli are all set to resume from injury, as will Drew Petrie who has already declared himself as fit for the Bombers clash. Scott Lycett is anticipated to join the main squad in a fortnight, with the likelihood the ruckman will be available after the Eagles mid-season bye.