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Chris Kowald reporting for AFANA from Domain Stadium Perth, Australia

The Gold Coast Suns’ last visit to Domain Stadium was early in the season when they defeated the Dockers. Their trip west this time was much tougher. The injury depleted Suns knew they were in for a tough game and West Coast were at full strength.
Indigenous Round
The pregame featured celebrations of the aboriginal tradition of Dreamtime as it was Indigenous Week in the AFL.

The game started as an open contest with both teams attacking the ball and providing quick ball movement. Against the script, Gold Coast kicked the first goal. After four minutes of the ball traveling from end to end, the Suns’ captain Gary Ablett Jr laid a strong tackle on the wing. He grabbed the ball and kicked long to Tom Lynch who marked and centered to Steven May, who marked and scored a goal. The Eagles then steadied and set the pattern for the rest of the game. Their midfielders tightened their positioning and tackled the fleet-footed Suns at every opportunity. When the Eagles did get the ball, it was through the agency of their star midfielders, Matt Priddis, Luke Shuey and Jack Redden. These three players featured in repeated chains of handpasses and short kicks until a player was free to launch a long kick into the forward line, where either Jack Darling or Josh Kennedy would mark it. Within the first seven minutes Jack Darling had taken two strong marks and kicked 1.1. In contrast the Suns’ attacks were cut short by the Eagles backmen, effectively spoiling the their opponents’ marking attempts.

The Gold Coast forwards were also inaccurate with their kicking and missed several early chances to put scoreboard pressure on the Eagles. The first quarter finished with Gold Coast’s Ryan Davis laying a good tackle on Eagle Brad Sheppard; who was penalized for throwing the ball rather than handpassing. Davis took his kick after the siren and goaled. Between Gold Coast’s first and second goals the Eagles had kicked five.

The Eagles then dominated the ruck in the second quarter with both Nic Naitanui and Scott Lycett leaping over Gold Coast’s Tom Nicholls and Ryan Davis. However, the Eagles small men did not dominate the clearances. Ablett, with Michael Rischitelli and Dion Prestia, intercepted many of the taps and nearly matched Priddis and Shuey in clearing the ball for the center. The difference between the teams, in this quarter, was the Eagles defense led by Jeremy McGovern and Shannon Hurn, who continued to stop Gold Coast attacks. By the main break, the Eagles had added four more goals, and the Suns were held to just three points. The Eagles had made 30 forward entries to Gold Coast’s twelve.

West Coast dominated most of the third quarter and added five more goals. As the quarter approached time-on, the Suns started to have more success in moving the ball forward. Their young players still had plenty of run in their legs and broke free from their opponents to run the ball into attack. The Suns made seven of the last eight attacks of the quarter and added three late goals. Two came from Tom Lynch who marked well and kicked accurately. Before that, however, the Eagles had kicked nine unanswered goals since the end of the first quarter. The result was not in doubt. The Eagles led by a huge margin.

The only interest in the last quarter was whether Kennedy would add to his tally of five goals, or the Suns would be able continue the fight back they showed at the end of the third quarter. Kennedy missed a chance to score his sixth but Lycett kicked two and Mark Hutchings, Josh Hill and Mark LeCras added one each for the Eagles. There was a glimpse of the future for the Suns when young star, Jack Martin, bobbed up for two good marks in the forward zone, which both resulted in goals.

West Coast coach Adam Simpson, was pleased with the win. His players hadn’t sparkled but they showed the ability to triumph, even though they had not produced their best play on the day. The coach of the Suns, Rodney Eade, saw enough in his young players to believe they will continue to trouble sides above them. They have another very tough test at their home ground next week with a visit by Sydney, who look to be the in-form team of the competition. The Eagles have now crept within percentage of the top four. West Coast next travel to Etihad Stadium to meet the Western Bulldogs. The Dogs on their home turf will provide formidable opposition and the Eagles, who have been suspect away from home this season, will need to bring their ‘A’ game, or suffer the consequences.

West Coast Eagles: 5.6 9.8 14.9  20.12 (132)
Gold Coast Suns:   2.4 2.7  5.15  7.13  (55) 

West Coast Eagles: Shuey, Priddis, Redden, Naitanui, Hurn
Gold Coast Suns:   Ablett, Prestia, Malceski, Martin, Hall 

Article last changed on Tuesday, May 31, 2016 - 12:16 AM EDT

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