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The West Coast Eagles survived an early scare from the Fremantle Dockers, to win the 44th Western Derby comfortably.

The difference between the two teams was Josh Kennedy, who thrived in the windy conditions to kick seven goals to stretch his lead at the top of the AFL goal kicking table.

Both teams welcomed back their first team ruckmen who had had spent long periods recuperating from injuries. Neither Aaron Sandilands for Fremantle, nor Nic Naitanui for the Eagles was dominant. Both played useful games for their respective sides and will benefit from the game time. The Fremantle midfielders seemed to gain the most from the presence of a strong ruckman and had a slight advantage over the Eagles at both the center bounces and at stoppages around the ground. The Dockers started the first quarter strongly with a determined attack on the ball, which resulted in them winning the contested possessions for the first half of the game. The Dockers were intent on moving the ball quickly into their forward line by shooting long kicks to either Matthew Pavlich or Shane Yarran. Yarran, playing his fourth AFL game, looked dangerous at times but did not always take full advantage of his good work and finished with only two goals. Andrew Gaff had an unusually quiet day in the middle for West Coast, largely due to the close attention applied to him by Tommy Sheridan. Sheridan smothered Gaff and was also able to run off his opponent to kick two goals. The Eagles other two prime movers, Luke Shuey and Matthew Priddis, may have lost in the clearances against David Mundy and Lachie Neale, but their repeated pressure caused the Dockers to either kick poorly or mishandle the ball.

Fremantle dominated much of the first two quarters and could have had a larger lead, but for the efforts of West Coast defenders Shannon Hurn and Jeremy McGovern. As the game progressed Priddis and Shuey lifted their work rate and the Eagles began to use the ball with more purpose than the Dockers. The Eagles had less forward entries to half-time, but they took more marks in their forward line than the Dockers could manage with their more frequent attacks. West Coast also had Josh Kennedy kicking accurately to finish the forward movements with polish. The Dockers were more wasteful going into attack. Matthew Pavlich, playing his 34th Western Derby, mostly struggled in the air but was able to pull down a couple of good marks and score two goals. West Coast other tall forward, Jack Darling, was soundly beaten by Alex Silvagni. Silvagni played his first game of the year the previous week by nullifying Sydney superstar Lance Franklin; and looked the goods again when competing on Darling. Late in the match he was moved onto Kennedy to give Kennedy’s inexperienced opponent, Sam Collins who was playing his tenth AFL game, some respite. The Eagles small forwards, Mark LeCras and Josh Hill, both chipped in with three goals each to support Kennedy. Dockers midfielder, Stephen Hill, continued his evolution towards becoming more of an inside player by winning an increased share of contested possessions to launch many attacks. Small forward Hayden Ballantyne, returned from injury by using a helmet to protect his fractured cheek bone; however both he and Michael Walters could only manage a goal each for Fremantle.

In the second half the Dockers continued to play strong contested football, but they were outclassed by the Eagles who played with more precision. The Eagles outscored the Dockers ten goals to four in the second half, with the inexperienced and undermanned Dockers defense unable to provide an answer to Kennedy, Hill and LeCras. The Eagles would be happier with their work in the second half of the game than with their opening efforts. Against more experienced opposition, they would have been in serious trouble before the main break. Their next three games are against Greater Western Sydney, Hawthorn, and Adelaide. They would need to win at least one of those games to give themselves some confidence for the finals. The Dockers host the Adelaide Crows next week. Another sound thrashing is a real possibility. Dockers coach Ross Lyon does not appear to be too concerned. For the young Dockers, this will be a valuable learning experience on the rugged road to recovery.

Fremantle Dockers: 3.2 5.6  7.7  9.10  (64)
West Coast Eagles: 2.2 7.5 12.7 17.8  (110)

Fremantle Dockers: Hill, Silvagni, Mundy, Neale, Sheridan
West Coast Eagles: Kennedy, Hurn, Shuey, Masten, McGovern 

Article last changed on Tuesday, June 12, 2018 - 9:38 PM EDT

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