In a game that lacked highlights but offered plenty of interest, the West Coast Eagles withstood a determined Fremantle Dockers to win by 13 points. The depleted Dockers threw everything they had at the reigning premiers, but in the end were defeated by their own inaccuracy in front of goal.
The Eagles started strongly by launching attacks from half-back and slicing through the center with long kicks direct to Kennedy. Shannon Hurn was influential in directing play in the first term forays that had the Eagles scoring five goals. The Dockers pushed hard but did not have the clear center access that the Eagles were able to manufacture. The Dockers had as many forward attacks as the Eagles but they kicked points instead of goals. Elliot Yeo was deadly when he got his hands on the ball for the Eagles and assisted Hurn in launching attacks from half-back. Ed Langdon was lively in middle for Dockers and the Eagles’ Andrew Gaff accumulated midfield possessions. The combined efforts of Nathan Vardy and Tom Hickey had the edge over Rory Lobb in the ruck, but Lobb was more effective with his marking around the ground.
In the second quarter the Dockers continued to win contested possessions but their use of the ball lacked polish. The Eagles made more attacking entries but were repelled by the backline line of Alex Pearce, Joel Hamling (until injured) and Luke Ryan, who shut down Kennedy and Darling’s high marking. The Dockers barricaded the center corridor, used so well by the Eagles to attack in the first term, and then harried and harassed the Eagles to force errors. Despite their lamentable kicking for goal, the Dockers outscored the Eagles by two points for the quarter. David Mundy and Reece Conca both had a big quarter using their strength to win contested balls. For the Eagles Gaff, Cam Sheppard and Jack Redden worked well to push their team forward, only to see Docker defenders continue to smother Darling and Kennedy. The Dockers’ attacks lacked the organisation of the Eagles and relied on pacey breakaways into open space, whereas the Eagles bombed long kicks directly to their forwards. Matt Taberner was strong in the air around the ground for the Dockers, but when the Dockers attacked, they invariably kicked to their small forward Brandon Matera who was easily out marked.
The Dockers’ attack on the ball took its toll on the Eagles in the third quarter. Around the ground the usual smooth West Coast transitions were disrupted by the pressure applied by the Docker midfield. Seasoned players such as Shannon Hurn made mistakes they wouldn’t normally make. It was only a poor pass by Rees Conca that was intercepted by Oscar Allen which restored some pride for West Coast - and gave them valuable breathing space before the end of the third quarter. Despite this late goal, the Dockers had again outscored the Eagles for the quarter.
In the final quarter the pressure on ball carriers for both sides was a result of both teams focusing on getting numbers to the ball. Jack Redden lifted and played his best quarter for the Eagles in the midfield. He finished with 14 contested possessions for the game.
Elliot Yeo also stood up for the Eagles when it counted. For the Dockers, David Mundy played a fine game as stand-in captain for the injured Nat Fyfe.
Mundy was influential in the packs and won a game high 23 contested possessions to bustle his team forward. At the 15-minute mark, a free kick to Darling within goal range all but ended the Dockers' hopes of an upset victory. However, the Dockers persisted with goals to Taberner and Michael Walters. Then, against the run of play, a turnover created by Oscar Allen caught the Fremantle defenders out of position and Kennedy finished at close range to slam the gate shut at the 26-minute mark. The Dockers refused to surrender and Michel Walters finished a good night by adding a second goal to his game-high eight tackles, just before the siren.
The undermanned Dockers threw everything they had at the Eagles, but were let down by their kicking. The Eagles won the game but would not be happy with the way the Dockers controlled the ball for long periods and outscored the Eagles in the last three quarters.
Next week West Coast meet Port Adelaide Power at Optus Stadium for a Good Friday night match. The Dockers will travel to Canberra to meet the emerging Giants on Saturday.
Scores West Coast Eagles 5.1 6.3 8.5 10.9 (69) Fremantle Dockers 0.5 1.9 4.12 7.14 (56) Best West Coast Eagles: Hurn, Sheppard, Redden, Yeo, Gaff Fremantle Dockers: Mundy, Langdon, Pearce, Taberner, Brayshaw
Article last changed on Sunday, April 14, 2019 - 1:32 AM EDT