Rick Browner reporting for AFANA from Patersons Stadium, Perth
Hawthorn has never won a Twilight game at Patersons Stadium and facing an in-form West Coast team at home, it was going to be hard to win their first. The Hawks were minus some quality players due to injury while the Eagles were fielding a strong team. The game was tipped to go down to the wire and in the end it lived up to that expectation.
Both sides were disciplined with their defensive formations and it was a game of cat and mouse with scoring chances hard to come by. Goals were so hard to come by that neither team had scored a six pointer by the time the quarter ended. The Eagles had the luxury of the ball in their forward half for most of the quarter but their kicking was woeful. They were content to bomb very long kicks into the 50 meter arc, only to see poor finishing by their forwards. West Coast’s best chance for a goal came late when Josh Kennedy found himself deep in the forward pocket. Inexplicably he took a shot on goal rather than pass to either of two teammates in the clear at the top of the goal square. When the siren sounded West Coast had kicked eight behinds and the Hawks four. For two of the better teams in the competition it was a very strange outcome.
Michael Osborne kicked the first goal of the match for the Hawks within two minutes of the start of the second quarter. It was a piece of brilliance on his part and should have sparked something from his side. This was not to be and the game started to repeat the earlier pattern of poor delivery to the forwards with untidy football the result. West Coast didn’t even look like kicking a goal and continually messed up scoring chances in front of the big sticks. Acting Captain Jordan Lewis took a left foot snap from the pocket to take the Hawks out to their biggest lead of the game, a miserly seven points. In normal circumstances such a slender margin would not be worth mentioning. However in the run of this game, it became commanding. Still the Eagles could not find their way to score a major and the half finished with them making a club record. Not one they would be proud of – for the first time in the history of the club West Coast had not scored a goal in a half of football on their home turf.
There was a burst of Eagle activity soon after the start of the second half. Josh Hill made the most of an intercept in the first thirty seconds and kicked West Coast’s first goal for the game. However all eyes were behind the play where Luke Shuey had copped a hard bump in play and lay writhing on the ground clutching his collarbone. He had to be assisted from the ground and was in intense pain. Nick Naitanui was moved into the ruck and his speed around the stoppages was a bonus. Some quick ball movement up the ground saw Josh Kennedy score a goal for the Eagles and suddenly the game was on. The fervor was short lived as the old tactics of chip and press came back into play and the game again stagnated. Hawthorn had some chances and it would have been all over had star forward Buddy Franklin kicked straight. He had managed only five behinds before waiting behind the pack to take a mark and score his first goal for the game. As the replay showed he was somewhat lucky, having clearly pushed his opponent in the back unseen by the umpires. With only five goals scored by both teams as well as 29 behinds for three quarters of football, it was an uninspiring spectacle.
Jack Darling had been quiet so far for the Eagles but he put his stamp on the match early in the final quarter. A turnover in the back half for Hawthorn had the ball moving quickly into the Eagles’ forward zone where Darling kicked truly from 48 meters out. This gave the Eagles the lead and when Darling kicked the next one it looked as if the home team had done enough to secure a win. The game had started to open up and the home side was full of running but the Hawks did not throw in the towel. Their efforts looked to be in vain when Daniel Kerr snapped a quick kick off a bounce down to have the Eagles with the last three goals unanswered. It had been a welcome return to form by Kerr who was one of the best players on the ground all night. Cyril Rioli - who had also been having an uncharacteristically quiet night - threw off the shackles and nearly stole the game back for the Hawks. He delivered one of his trademark deep-in-the-pocket left foot kicks. The ball traveled end over end along the ground and, as if it had eyes, turned at exactly the right time to go through for a goal. Minutes later he took a sensational mark 30 meters out against three taller West Coast opponents. His straight kick put the Hawks back within a kick of stealing the game. Unfortunately Rioli was suffering from severe cramps and just he was most needed, he found himself on the bench in the hands of the medical staff.
Finally the siren sounded to have the Eagles in front by five points. It was a bizarre score line from two teams who have an eye on the Premiership Flag. Had either team kicked straight it would have been a one-sided affair. It is very rare to have a scoreboard showing 37 behinds and only ten goals for at this high level. The win has the Eagles on top of the Ladder with a strong percentage. Hawthorn is just outside the Top Eight but shouldn’t be written off yet.
Scoreboard West Coast: 0.8 0.12 2.16 5.21 (51) Hawthorn: 0.4 2.7 3.13 5.16 (46) Best Players West Coast: Kerr, Waters, McKenzie, Schofield, Darling Hawthorn: Lewis, Osborne, Gibson, Mitchell, Gunston
Article last changed on Sunday, April 29, 2012 - 8:57 AM EDT