The Melbourne Demons overcame a fifteen-year hoodoo to beat the West Coast Eagles in Perth and post one of their most important victories of the season. The win places Melbourne in a good position to contest the finals, while West Coast will be thrown back with a pack of teams fighting to make the top eight.
The Eagles started strongly by scoring a goal within the first minute through Drew Petrie, but Melbourne responded within four minutes with a goal to Billy Stretch. The Eagles then applied their tactic of pushing their whole team within a kick of the ball, to smother any chance of Melbourne ball movement. With the game being played on their terms, the Eagles then locked the ball into their forward line for the majority of the first quarter; but were unable to convert attacks into major scores (goals). The Demons defended resolutely and when they got the opportunity to break free they charged downfield to launch scintillating counter attacks. At the 18-minute mark Alex Neil-Bullen found himself on the end of one such breakaway and kicked Melbourne’s second goal. Three minutes later another breakout from the defensive line saw Jack Viney put the Demons further ahead. The pattern was then set for the rest of the game. West Coast would apply pressure in the packs and Melbourne would rely on handball and their youthful runners to stream into attack once clear of the packs.
In the second quarter the game opened up and spectators were treated to fast and hard-fought football. The ball moved quickly from end-to end with deft handpassing and long kicking. Melbourne’s Max Gawn showed no ill-effects from his long injury break and had the edge on the Eagles’ Nathan Vardy in the ruck. Melbourne also had a slight edge in clearances but didn’t have it all their own way, as West Coast applied tackles typical of a team fighting to save its season. In the center of the ground, Jack Viney was inspirational for the demons picking up 23 possessions by half-time, with 16 of them won as contested balls. Sam Mitchell played his role as ball distributor for West Coast, skillfully switching play to orchestrate Eagle attacks. Both teams traded goals with neither side establishing dominance in the quarter. By the main break the lead had already changed six times in what had developed into a pulsating game of traditional attacking football. Just on half-time, a solid tackle by Jeremy McGovern on Jayden Hunt stirred passions, with players pushing and shoving in a large milling pack which took a couple of minutes to disperse.
After the main break, the game intensity increased yet again. Melbourne used their running and handball game to weave through the Eagles’ pressure around the ball. The rampant Jack Viney left the ground for injury treatment and immediately Dom Tyson, Jordan Lewis, Clayton Oliver, Bernie Vince and Michael Hibberd stepped up to carry the fight to the Eagles. The young Demons took the game on at every opportunity, throwing caution to the wind as they played-on at every opportunity. For the Eagles it was their experienced campaigners Sam Mitchell, Leroy Jetta, and Luke Shuey, assisted by Andrew Gaff, Dom Sheed and Elliot Yeo who forced their team back into the game. Two late goals to Mark Hutchins and Jeremy McGovern gave the Eagles some breathing space at the final break.
In the final stanza the game built to an enthralling climax. The combatants traded goals early but West Coast skipped away with consecutive goals to Josh Hill and McGovern half-way through the quarter. The Eagles looked set to finish strongly. However, Vardy missed an easy shot at the fifteen-minute mark and then Leroy Jetta missed a set shot moments later. The Demons kept running, knocking the ball forward and handballing; and eventually the ball spilled to Gawn who kicked long to Cameron Pedersen who marked and goaled. Two minutes later, Neville Jetta intercepted an Eagle attack and the Melbourne runners sprinted downfield to shoot the ball to Tom McDonald who marked twenty five meters from goal. McDonald kicked truly. With three minutes to go, the frantic action was stopped briefly when Shannon Hurn was knocked down by Viney as they contested a high ball. Hurn had to be assisted from the field. When the game resumed, the Demons worked the ball forward again. With 24 seconds to go Tom McDonald gathered a loose ball in the goal square. McGovern dragged him to the ground but McDonald got enough boot to the ball to kick a memorable match-winning goal.
Next week the Eagles travel to Etihad Stadium to meet the Western Bulldogs in a season-defining game for both sides. Melbourne return to the MCG to host the in-form Sydney Swans, in what should be a compelling contest.
Scores West Coast Eagles 2.5 5.7 11.10 14.12 (96) Melbourne Demons 3.1 6.6 10.8 15.9 (99) Best West Coast Eagles: Gaff, Shuey, MItchell, Jetta, Petrie Melbourne Demons: Viney, Tyson, Lewis, T McDonald, Oliver
Article last changed on Sunday, June 25, 2017 - 3:45 AM EDT