Eagles prevail over Blues to break SCG hoodoo
The West Coast Eagles has produced a backs to the wall victory on the road, defeating Carlton by 22 points at the SCG on Sunday.
Without first choice players Josh Kennedy, Luke Shuey, Tim Kelly, Jeremy McGovern, Oscar Allen, Liam Duggan and Alex Witherden heading in to the match and then without reliable defender Brad Sheppard from early in the contest due to concussion, the Eagles produced a gutsy performance, leading at every change in the 14.11 (95) to 10.13 (73) result.
Coming off consecutive losses and playing at a venue they hadn't won at since 1999 Adam Simpson's side made a fast start, with goals to Jack Darling, Liam Ryan and Dom Sheed giving the visitors an early advantage.
The Blues squandered some chances but eventually hit the scoreboard through Will Setterfield, but Ryan was causing some headaches inside forward 50 at the other end as he slotted his second major for the term.
By quarter time the match had evened up with the Blues kicking 3.6, West Coast stronger in the contest in the second term having been outworked by a younger Blues outfit in the first stanza.
Both teams were down a player though with Brad Sheppard ruled out for the Eagles due to a concussion in a big collision with Adam Saad, while Carlton key forward Harry McKay was also ruled out after a heavy landing in a marking contest.
Medical sub Jermaine Jones made an immediate impact with two goals in the second quarter, helping edge the Eagles ahead by 8 points at the half.
Ryan was the man providing the spark for the Eagles in the third term in a crucial match for both sides, taking a mark of the year contender while also kicking two majors, a late long bomb from Luke Foley giving West Coast a lead of 16 points at the last break.
When Eddie Betts produced a boundary line pearler in the opening minute of the final term the margin was under two goals, but the Blues could not get any closer as Jamie Cripps and Xavier O'Neill kicked steadying goals for the Eagles, who were then able to kill any chance of a Carlton comeback with Shannon Hurn and Tom Barrass repelling numerous forward 50 thrusts in the final ten minutes of the match.
It was a galvanising win for the Eagles, with so many key first choice players on the sidelines, youngsters Foley, O'Neill and first gamer Luke Edwards all showing encouraging signs for the future.
Dom Sheed (32 disposals) and Andrew Gaff (30) stood up in midfield, while Elliot Yeo showcased his value with 18 disposals and 8 clearances in his second game back from osteitis pubis.
Stand in skipper Nic Naitanui also made a telling impact with 15 disposals, 33 hitouts and nine clearances, winning his ruck battle with Marc Pittonet, the Blues big man squandering two simple set shots in the first half to compound his day.
Ryan was the star though, kicking four majors and standing up at crucial times to deliver a crucial road win for his club.
Carlton midfielder Sam Walsh shone once again in a superb midfield performance with 30 disposals, Zac Williams with 24 and Patrick Cripps 22 before a late knock took the wind out of his sails, the Blues finals hopes all but dashed as they arrive at their bye.
Eagles coach Adam Simpson hailed a great team performance.
“We played with plenty of spirit. We hopefully made our supporters proud. Our leaders were exceptional and our kids stood up," he said.
“As much as we are missing some good players, we still have some great leaders. Nic’s first time as captain, Gaff, Yep, Hurn, Barrass, Darling.
"“Luke Edwards on debut, Harry Edwards, Bailey, Xavier, Foley. They all had their moment to each do something special.”
West Coast will now return home to play Richmond in a rescheduled fixture for round 13, having originally being set for their bye before a fixture change saw that pushed back to round 14.