Rick Browner reporting for AFANA from Patersons Stadium, Perth
Jack Darling returned to good goal kicking form to help West Coast put the Western Bulldogs to the sword in the Round Six clash at Patersons Stadium. The Eagles ran all over their opponents after Darling kicked five goals in the first half then went on into the second half to assist his forward mate Josh Kennedy boot four of his own.
It was a welcome return to the form that had been predicted of the Eagles before the season started. Dean Cox set the tone early when he was on target from 50 meters out deep in the pocket. The Bulldogs were not going to capitulate and they were hard at the ball and fierce in contests. They were also efficient when they moved the ball into their attacking zone and kept pace with the Eagles in the goal scoring department. West Coast showed great rebound capabilities from their defensive area, moving the ball crisply forward to score. They booted four goals in a row to put the Bulldogs on the back foot for the rest of the game. The demon on the Eagles’ backs - kicking points instead of goals - was finally shaken as they took a twenty-one point lead into the first break. It would have been worse except for Bulldog Jake Stringer’s clever goal with seconds left on the clock. The ball appeared to have a homing device attached as it dribbled along the ground from 30 meters out and took an off break through the big sticks.
Whilst the Bulldogs had double the number of winning clearances, their opponents quickly hunted them down and forced multiple turnovers down field. The Bulldogs continually bombed the ball forward with long kicks that were easily picked off at half back by the Eagles' sweepers, Darren Glass and Shannon Hurn. The Eagles scored seven goals from these turnovers and were hurting the Bullies as a result. West Coast began to assert their dominance through the quarter moving out to a 33 point lead at one stage. The Western Bulldogs could not find a marking target in their 50 meter zone and were being pushed wide into the pockets when they moved the ball forward. Adam Cooney provided a spark when he kicked the goal of the day close to the boundary on his non-preferred foot but it was one way traffic as the Eagles continued to kick accurately, maintaining a healthy lead of 31 points as the half wound down.
In the third quarter West Coast continued to dominate with great rebound football. They powered away from the Bulldogs with some classy goals to their second tier forwards in Mark LeCras and Josh Kennedy. The Bulldogs could find no clear path to goals. Although they had scoring chances, they were reduced to lucky snaps and toe pokes at the ball that found their way through rather than playing with method and a clear strategy. West Coast made their substitution with crowd favorite Nick Naitanui replacing Callum Sinclair. It was Naitanui's first game of the season after battling injury and he quickly injected more power into the ruck. The Bulldogs could find no answers as the Eagles steamrolled over them with a 52 point lead going into the final change.
West Coast had blown a 41 point lead the week before. When the Bulldogs came out to start the last quarter with more determination and the first goal to substitute Mitch Wallace, a murmur went around the ground that history might be about to repeat itself. This was not to be as West Coast started to win the closely contested ball at the packs and were able to drive it forward with precision. Liam Jones marked and goaled from a good lead to give the Bulldogs a glimmer of hope but their resistance was soon rubbed out and they went down by nearly 12 goals. To add insult to injury, Josh Hill kicked a goal after the siren to add salt to the visitors' wounds.
Finals' hopes have been extinguished for the Western Bulldogs after only winning one match out of six to start their season. West Coast, while not much better placed, have a good draw over the next month and will look to improve their record. They too are a long way adrift from where they expected to be and will need to keep up their momentum and win on the road if they are to be any chance for a September appearance.
Scoreboard West Coast: 6.3 10.4 16.7 21.11 (137) Bulldogs: 3.0 5.2 8.3 10.7 (67) Best players West Coast: Darling, Kennedy, Priddis, Shuey, Cox Bulldogs: Minson, Boyd, Smith, Jones
Article last changed on Tuesday, May 07, 2013 - 7:55 PM EDT