Rick Browner reporting for AFANA from Patersons Stadium, Perth
West Coast has lost only one game of its last 12 and continues to be the surprise package of the 2012 home and away season. The Adelaide Crows have been struggling and faced their worst finish in the club’s history with only seven wins. Rain bucketed down as the game got under way and whilst this was a blessing to a dry and parched Western Australia, it made for slippery, wet conditions at the football.
In a close start to the game, both teams were hard and committed at the ball and not taking a relaxed approach given that the Ladder was decided before the match. Most of the play was in the Eagles’ forward half and their press was working well. Despite this dominance, scoring was minimal with the bad weather having a detrimental effect on skills. The Crows were playing two men back in defense and this caused the play to become congested and slow. Adelaide was also applying good tackling pressure and took the game right up to the Eagles. It wasn’t until the last seven minutes of the quarter that the Eagles scored. Nic Naitanui took a strong mark and the handball off to Mark Nicoski put the first major on the board. Naitanui dominated in the last minutes of the quarter, tackling and flying for marks to give the home side a real presence in the forward half. He leapt a mile into the air only to have the ball slip through his fingers to a waiting Brad Ebert who kicked from inches out to give the Eagles a 17 point lead at the end of the quarter. The hapless Crows were yet to score.
Naitanui – the one man highlight reel - kicked the first goal of the second term after he read the ball off hands in the goal square. Kurt Tippett finally put the visitors on the board when he capitalized on a turnover by Beau Waters. Scott Thompson led by example, winning the ball and applying defensive pressure but he had sparse support from his team mates. Although Adelaide players were determined at the hard ball gets, they were going backwards on the scoreboard. The Eagles kicked the next three goals to take a good lead and stamp their authority on the match. Too many Crows players were drifting back to help out in defense but then lacked the run forward when they took possession of the ball. In their best passage of play for the game, Jared Petrenko goaled from 40 yards out when, against the flow, the ball moved crisply from the back into the Crows’ forward 50 meter arc. Petrenko was one of the Crows' more steadfast players and he was resolute in his attacking efforts. Unfortunately for the Crows, this was all they could muster for the quarter and the Eagles kicked the next four in a row to effectively stitch up the game. No build up was better than Andrew Embley’s run and goal from 40 yards out as he showed signs of his form in West Coast’s Premiership year (2006). The Eagles took a commanding 52 point lead into the second half.
With only pride left to play for, Adelaide came out after half time with increased determination. They had an early chance when Sam Jacobs took a shot after a 50 meter penalty but missed. They made amends soon after when Sam Butler turned the ball over and Bernie Vince made the Eagles pay. Naitanui showed why he will be a force to be reckoned with for many years to come, conjuring up a soccer goal in a phone box sized space. The Eagles ran away with the game in the third quarter, scoring four goals to have them on target for a 100 point belting. Adelaide Coach Mark Bickley moved running defender Graham Johncock into the forward line for some dash and this change was rewarded when he booted a goal late in the quarter. Unfortunately for the Crows, Luke Shuey’s tireless work on the ball resulted in a goal after a clever tap down from Chris Masten. It was an embarrassing 65 point lead to the Eagles at the final change.
It was party time for the Eagles in the final quarter with an astonishing nine goals kicked. The 36,000 strong home crowd was delighted and loud cheering and Mexican waves filled Patersons Stadium. At the end of the game Mark Nicoski, Quinten Lynch and Scott Selwood had three goals apiece after the Eagles buried their opponents. It was champagne football with only token resistance being shown by the Crows. Taylor Walker kicked two consolation goals and Thompson scored one but it was a cameo for both of them as the Crows were well and truly thrashed by a Finals-bound West Coast.
With Collingwood succumbing to a 96 point belting by Geelong in a game seen by many as the Grand Final preview, West Coast’s 95 point win will serve as a warning to the reigning Premiers as they prepare to meet the Eagles in the first Qualifying Final. For Adelaide it is on to 2012 and the appointment of a new coach. All Crows’ fans will be hoping for an improvement on their 14th position finish on the Ladder this year.
Scoreboard West Coast: 2.5 10.6 14.9 22.13 (145) Adelaide: 0.0 2.0 4.4 7.8 (50) Best Players West Coast: Naitanui, Shuey, S Selwood, Embley, Lynch, Butler Adelaide: Thompson, van Berlo, Johncock, Petrenko
Article last changed on Wednesday, September 07, 2011 - 6:13 AM EDT