Eagles scrap past Dons
The West Coast Eagles have kept themselves in the top four with a gritty 15 point win over Essendon at the Gabba on Tuesday night.
Essendon won most of the key indicators in the match, but failed to capitalise on their dominance as the Eagles held off the Bombers to triumph 9.6 (60) to 6.9 (45) and keep their hopes of the double chance in finals on track.
It took less than a minute for West Coast to hit the scoreboard through Liam Ryan, Nic Naitanui following up from the ruck contest to rush the ball forward, the 2018 premiership forward slotting his set shot after taking a mark on his chest 25 metres from goal.
Anthony McDonald-Tipungwuti responded in kind for the Bombers, who were winning the ball at the contest through midfield trio Zach Merrett, Dylan Shiel and Andrew McGrath.
West Coast were taking their opportunities though, with goals to Oscar Allen, Jack Darling and Bailey Williams giving them a 15 point buffer at quarter time.
Goals were hard to come by early in the second term, but West Coast produced an inspired burst midway through the quarter led by talisman Naitanui in the middle of the ground saw Ryan (twice) and Darling profit in front of the big sticks.
The Dons responded with the last three goals of the term to stay alive in the contest, McDonald-Tipungwuti and Will Snelling looking sharp inside forward 50.
In a blow for Essendon McGrath was ruled out of the game at half time due to an ankle injury, leaving John Worsfold’s side without one of it’s prime movers for the second half.
The Bombers had field position in the third term but failed to put their dominance on the scoreboard, defender Tom Cole sneaking forward to kick the first goal of his AFL career before a last second goal from Ryan (his fourth) gave the Eagles a handy 21 point three quarter time lead.
West Coast’s defence absorbed the pressure in the final stanza, former captain Shannon Hurn (20 disposals and 12 marks) standing tall along with Jeremy McGovern, Tom Barrass, Brad Shepperd and youngster Josh Rotham.
The Dons could only manage one goal in what was a lacklustre fourth term, both teams finishing with the same amount of scoring shots but the Eagles more accurate as they recorded their 10th win of the season despite failing to kick a goal in the last quarter.
Ryan and Darling shared six goals between them to cover the absence of spearhead Josh Kennedy, while midfielders Andrew Gaff (23 disposals) and the returning Jack Redden (21 disposals) found plenty of the ball.
Captain Luke Shuey laboured through the final stages of the match with a hamstring injury and will miss Sunday’s game against the Western Bulldogs.
Zach Merrett had 33 disposals for the Bombers, Shiel in imposing form with 32 and Kyle Langford 29, McDonald-Tipungwuti matching Ryan’s effort up forward with four goals for the red and black.
Eagles coach Adam Simpson was happy to grind out a victory.
“We thought the way Essendon play is so dangerous. We did enough in the first half, but you could sense they had energy. Our makeshift forward line was pretty good,” he said.
“It was an arm wrestle in the second half. I thought the maturity of our players stood up, particularly in the back half. We lost a lot of stats, I thought the midfield battle we lost, the field position battle.”
West Coast will play Western Bulldogs on Sunday in round 16, while Essendon now have little room for error as they face Geelong at the Gabba also on Sunday.
IMAGE: West Coast Eagles website.