The West Coast Eagles controlled the Western Bulldogs for most of the day to put in a workman-like display of winter weather football, to run our comfortable winners. The Dogs fielded a young team with the majority of players in their second or third season, and it showed, against the more experienced Eagles. Playing conditions were tricky with a strong wind blowing and some showers of rain in the second half. The game was unspectacular and dour as players dropped marks (catches), missed easy goals and kicked the ball out bounds without being touched (resulting in a free kick to the opposition) in their attempts to master the vagaries of the wind swirling around the field.
The Eagles’ Scott Lycett and Nathan Vardy matched Jordan Roughead and Tom Boyd in the ruck, but the stronger Eagle midfielder bodies had an edge in the clearances. Luke Shuey, Elliot Yeo and and Jack Redden dug in to do the heavy lifting in the packs for the Eagles and came out with clearances more than Toby McLean, Mitch Wallis and Josh Dunkley did for the Dogs. Lewis Jetta provided good run out of defense for the Eagles and his kicking early in the game was a treat to watch.
It was a rare sight to see both teams start with something of a more traditional structure as coaches eschewed the use of the ubiquitous loose man in defense. Consequently, the first quarter was the brightest patch of the match, with open play and quick ball movement. The Bulldogs started with a goal in the first thirty seconds to Mitch Wallis. Then, with a handball Wallis set up Luke Dalhaus to have the second Dog goal on the board within just two minutes of play. The Eagles were able to get their first goal after Jamie Cripps was grabbed high by Dunkley. From there, the Eagles spread their wings and booted another six unanswered goals. The majority of the Eagle attacks were based on long kicks to their tall forwards Jack Darling, Josh Kennedy; and Vardy when he was resting in the forward pocket. The big men each kicked a major in the first quarter. In addition to Cripps’ goal, small forward Marc LeCras and first year player Daniel Venables also kicked useful majors.
In the second quarter play remained relatively open. When the Eagles got possession their players spread wide to test the legs of the Dogs. Jetta’s run became a deciding factor. The Eagles launched most of their attacks from the backline and used long kicks from the wings where their forwards took strong marks, but only Kennedy (by gathering a ground ball) and LeCras (a free kick) were able to find the big opening. When the Bulldogs won the ball they used their trademark quick hand passes and run to weave through the web of midfield defenders across the center. On many occasions this was a successful tactic but rather than continue to run the ball to goal, they would kick long into attack only to see Jeremy McGovern or Shuey intercept. The Dogs’ cause was not helped after the Eagles scored one of their five behinds (worth one point each) for the quarter. Ed Richards brought the ball into play by kicking to himself and then playing on, by running out of the goal square. All perfectly legal and a good option if there are no obvious marking targets further afield. However, he ran 25 meters without bouncing the ball. Jamie Cripps took the resultant free kick and kicked truly, making it a seven point play. Apart from this incident, Richards, who has only played 16 games, showed dash and flair and is a player of the future for the Dogs.
In the third quarter the Dogs added more bite to their game and won their share of contested possessions on the wet and slippery grass. They continued on with their already established pattern using numerous tacklers whenever an opponent got the ball. As a spectacle, the game degenerated into an ugly rolling maul of packs, with more play in the Dogs forward line than in the Eagles. Both teams scored one goal each. Shannon Hurn will have a very nervous few days. Early in the quarter he and Honeychurch were contesting the ball. Honeychurch with his head down appeared to run into Hurn’s side as Hurn braced himself. However, when bracing himself, Hurn took one step forward to Honeychurch. This may be viewed as attempting to bump. Honeychurch was knocked unconscious and sent to hospital for neck scans. From the view of the video review, it could been seen as high contact with severe impact. The questions will be whether it was deliberate or careless; or whether Honeychurch’s actions contributed significantly to his own injury.
The Eagles kicked away in the final quarter to build up some important percentage points (derived from scores kicked for and against over the season). They found accuracy easier to achieve as the young Dogs tired. The Eagles added five goals but the Bulldogs did not stop trying and kicked two.
Next week, the Eagles take the long flight to Blunderstone Arena, Hobart, to meet the North Melbourne Kangaroos. The Roos must win to stay in the race for the finals. The Eagles must win to stay in the top two. The Bulldogs travel to Mars (otherwise known as Mars stadium in Ballarat, Victoria), to play a ‘home’ game against Port Adelaide Power. The Power are 1.1 per cent off fourth place on the ladder, but a loss could push them out of the eight due to their low percentage. The fight for the finals is now very heated.
Scores West Coast Eagles: 6.4 8.9 9.15 14.16 (100) Western Bulldogs: 2.2 3.5 4.8 6.10 (46) Best West Coast Eagles: Gaff, Jetta, Yeo, Hurn, Shuey Western Bulldogs: Dunkley, Crozier, McLean, Hunter, Macrae
Article last changed on Monday, July 23, 2018 - 1:14 AM EDT