Comeback Eagles beat Cats in classic
West Coast has become just the second team to triumph from a three quarter time deficit in 2020, defeating Geelong by nine points in a pulsating contest at Optus Stadium on Saturday night.
The plucky Cats led for almost the entire contest, but some late Nic Naitanui ruck brilliance and final quarter heroics from veteran spearhead Josh Kennedy saw the Eagles emerge victorious, 11.7 (73) to 10.4 (64) in front of 26,011 fans.
The home side had a goal on the board within 20 seconds, with Kennedy getting on the end of a Tim Kelly clearance to mark on the goal line and convert.
The Cats then assumed control of the contest, winning 27 more disposals than their opponents in the first quarter as Chris Scott’s men kept hold of the footy and denied the Eagles supply.
Midfielders Patrick Dangerfield and Mitch Duncan both had goals before quarter time as Geelong led by a goal the first change, pushing further away in the second with a three goal to one term to lead by 16 points at the half.
When Zach Touhy kicked the first of the third quarter the Cats were in complete command, but West Coast picked themselves up off the canvas with small forwards Liam Ryan and Jamie Cripps hitting the scoreboard.
They were without debutant defender Harry Edwards for most of the match after the 20 year old suffered concussion in friendly fire from team mate Brad Shepperd early in the second quarter.
As hard as the Eagles worked to get back in to the contest it appeared as though the visitors would hold a 14 point lead heading in to the final change thanks to a Tom Hawkins major, before a quick clearance saw Brendon Ah Chee mark and convert after the three quarter time siren to make it a single figure lead for the Cats half an hour from home.
Kennedy, who had only recorded three disposals to the final break then roared back to life in the final term, kicking his second goal courtesy of a Tim Kelly pass, as Nic Naitanui began to dominate the ruck.
Sam Simpson was awarded a controversial goal for Geelong after the ball appeared to bounce off his knee through for a major, goal umpire Sally Bowe’s initial call of a goal standing due to insufficient evidence to overturn the decision.
A sensational Naitanui tap from a forward stoppage set up Kennedy on the burst for a brilliant goal, before Jack Darling put the Eagles in front for the first time since the opening minutes halfway through the term.
Kennedy was the difference yet again for the Eagles, taking a huge contested mark at the top of the goal square with 90 seconds left, his fourth goal (and third of the term) sealing a memorable comeback win.
West Coast became just the second team in 2020 to win after trailing at three quarter time, the first since North Melbourne ran over the top of St Kilda in the opening round of the season.
Naitanui’s impact was telling in the ruck with 34 hitouts and 10 disposals, while Dom Sheed kept his side in the game early with two first half goals and finished his team’s leading disposal winner with 24 disposals.
Cameron Guthrie was outstanding for the Cats with 23 disposals, Tom Stewart, Mitch Duncan and Sam Menegola among their best.
Eagles coach Adam Simpson said his talismanic ruckman Naitanui made a telling impact on the contest.
“Nic was special. His form all year has been first class. He delivered tonight but he has delivered all night," he said.
“We’ve just missed him. He brings everyone into the game, including the crowd. The crowd were awesome tonight. They’re a huge advantage for us.”
West Coast have a bye in round 10 before facing Carlton next Sunday, while Geelong will now leave Perth and head to Queensland and play North Melbourne at the Gabba on Wednesday.
IMAGE: Herald Sun.