A disastrous third quarter almost capsized the Eagles premiership quest, but Josh Kennedy inspired West Coast to a 17 point win over Carlton.
The Eagles have gone win-loss for their past 10 games, and in that time yo-yoed in and out of the eight, but with the Bulldogs and Essendon both losing, West Coast enter the final fortnight of the season in 8th position.
For West Coast, their finals campaign begins in the final two weeks of the regular season, with games against GWS and Adelaide to determine whether they qualify for September action.
The Eagles famed final quarter fadeout came a term early against the Blues as Carlton rattled on six unanswered goals after half-time to erase West Coast’s 32 point half-time advantage.
When Blaine Boekhorst smothered a Lewis Jetta kick out of defence and then threaded through a goal from a tight angle late in the third quarter, the Blues had stunned the Eagles in front of their home crowd to take a six point lead.
Josh Kennedy kicked the Eagles only goal for the quarter to level the scores with a quarter to play.
There were warning signs for West Coast with what was to come in the third term in the final minutes of the opening half.
The Eagles had booted five goals in a devastating burst to break the game open, but Carlton were still winning in most areas on the field and as the quarter ticked down, the Blues had several chances to reel the Eagles in.
Matthew Kreuzer, Jed Lamb, Dale Thomas and Bryce Gibbs all missed gettable shots – the Blues registering four straight behinds as their only reward on the scoreboard, despite managing 14 inside 50s for the quarter to just 8 for West Coast.
The fact that the Eagles had managed 5.2 from their entries was proving the difference.
With the game and finals hopes on the line, West Coast responded to a three quarter time spray from coach Adam Simpson and the boos ringing from the members.
With a strong breeze in their favour for the final quarter, the Eagles did away with the handball game, opting to just pump the ball long at every chance. West Coast showed more intent to establish forward position as opposed to controlling the ball up the ground and it paid dividends.
Having had just 26 inside 50s in the first three quarters, the Eagles had 20 in the final term as the young Carlton defence eventually relented under continual bombardment.
Luke Shuey was the catalyst winning a number of centre clearances in the final term to drive West Coast forward. Matthew Kreuzer had had the better of Nathan Vardy for much of the game, but Vardy was able to neutralise Kreuzer’s influence in the last quarter with several important hit-outs.
Kennedy got the vital first goal of the final term – which was also West Coast’s 10,000th in club history – when he juggled a clever one-hander in the goal square. The Eagles continued to pepper the goal stretching the lead to 10 points before Levi Casboult kicked a steadier for Carlton.
Luke Partington then laid a tackle 25 metres out from goal to claim a free kick and defied his three games of AFL experience to deliver the clutch finish. Jack Darling booted his second heading into time on before Charlie Curnow kept the Blues in touch with an immediate response.
Josh Kennedy sealed the game shortly after with his sixth of the night, which also put the Eagles full forward in the outright lead for the Coleman Medal.
Kennedy claimed the points over the rejuvenated Liam Jones after the Carlton forward-cum-defender got the points in the opening term. Kennedy responded with three goals in the second term during the Eagles run.
Earlier, Jamie Cripps and Jeremy McGovern were the two that kept West Coast in the contest at either end of the ground.
With Kreuzer on top in the middle, the Carlton midfielders sent the ball forward on a number of occasions only to find the Eagles defender. McGovern intercepted a number of Carlton entries in his battle with Casboult.
Cripps had three majors at quarter time to be the Eagles most productive forward from limited opportunities.
Sam Mitchell had 10 possessions in the opening quarter, eventually finishing with 23, while Andrew Gaff had 24 with most coming in the second half. Gaff had Sam Kerridge for company in a close tag in the first half, but as Carlton stormed back into the contest, the tag was dropped.
Luke Shuey had 23 which included nine clearances, eight of which came out of the middle and six inside-50’s. Jack Redden picked up 21 and booted two goals as he continues with his late season form.
The Blues were well served with Marc Murphy who collected a game high 29 disposals and kicked two goals, while Bryce Gibbs had 26. The Blues though were shut down in the final term with the Eagles able to get on top of most of the Carlton’s playmakers.
Adam Simpson admitted that the Eagles weren’t perfect throughout the night but that West Coast were prepared to challenge in the pointy end of the season.
Match Details Saturday 12 August 2017
West Coast 4.0 9.2 10.4 15.10 (100)
Carlton 3.3 3.7 9.10 12.11 (83)
Subiaco Oval Attendance: 30,491
Goals: WC Kennedy 6, Cripps 3, Darling, Redden 2, Partington, Hutchings.
CAR Murphy, Silvagni, Casboult 2, Lamb, C Curnow, Gibbs, Boekhorst, Fisher, Pickett.
EAGLE EYE VOTES
Round 21 Season Leaderboard
5 Jeremy McGovern 34 Luke Shuey
4 Josh Kennedy 29 Josh Kennedy
3 Luke Shuey 28 Elliot Yeo
2 Jack Redden 28 Jeremy McGovern
1 Jamie Cripps 24 Andrew Gaff
ROUND 22 FORECAST
West Coast have it all to do in the final fortnight of the season, as they prepare to take on the top two teams in the competition.
Changes are likely to be at a minimum, with no injury problems coming out of the win over Carlton, although a couple of youngsters and a veteran could be under the microscope.
Luke Partington had just two touches in the first three quarters against the Blues, although he was able to have an impact in the final term with five possessions and clutch goal after winning a free kick deep in the Eagles forward line. Jackson Nelson is the other who hasn’t managed to find the form of the first few weeks of the season before suffering a wrist injury.
Sharrod Wellingham was a late inclusion for Mark LeCras with Adam Simpson declaring the goal sneak had a hamstring complaint. Wellingham failed to have an influence playing up forward, although Simpson conceded that LeCras would be unlikely to return for the Giants.
Wellingham was named as an emergency along with Hill and both players were kept out of the East Perth line up, with Wellingham ultimately getting the nod. However Hill could come into calculations as the more natural forward with the Eagles too reliant on Kennedy in recent weeks.
Tom Cole was the third emergency for West Coast, but played in the Royals 54 point win over Swan Districts. Cole amassed 20 disposals across half back and could be considered as a replacement for Nelson.
Chris Masten once again returned to the WAFL to be the Royals second leading ball winner for the afternoon with 33. Masten has had no issues getting plenty of the ball at the lower level, but seems to be unable to translate it at West Coast.
Tom Lamb was also one of the best for East Perth with 24 dispoals and a wing as he continues to play up the ground on a wing. However, it seems unlikely that he will be able to break into the current Eagles line up.
The most exciting performance for West Coast fans though was the four goal return from Willie Rioli. Selected by at last years draft, Rioli was in line for a first up debut at the start of the year, but hamstring injuries have curtailed his first season at the club. In his second game back at East Perth seniors, Rioli showcased all the tricks and could be a bolter for Adam Simpson for a forward pocket role.
Jake Waterman backed up a solid debut last week, to kick two goals across half forward from 15 possessions and eight marks, while Francis Watson – who was another pressing for an AFL debut early in the year before injury struck – showed plenty of dash with 19 touches off half-back.
Will Schofield and Malcolm Karpany were both quiet after being dropped following the Saints loss, although Schofield could come back into contention depending on the fitness of Tom Barrass. With the Giants boasting Jon Patton, Rory Lobb and Harrison Himmelberg (in place of the injured Jeremy Cameron), West Coast are likely to take a third tall defender to counteract GWS’s aerial threat.
IN: Hill, Barrass/Schofield
OUT: Wellingham, Nelson