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Petracca Handballs
Petracca Handballs (D Woodley / AFANA)

The Melbourne Demons hit the West Coast Eagles with a scorching third quarter, using their big-bodied midfielders to tackle and pressure the younger Eagles out of the game. The Eagles were forced to make seven team changes due the injury carnage sustained against Fremantle the week before; and their inexperienced replacements gave it everything they could - and more - until half time. Harassment from the willing Eagles at the fall of the ball worried the Demons out of their usual game style early in the match.

Tim Kelly's 12-possession first quarter for the home team inspired his youthful team mates. West Coast got numbers to the contest and restricted Melbourne's ball movement. The Eagles matched Melbourne in tackles, clearances and forward entries in the first quarter. In addition, the Eagles moved the ball quickly out of defense and into attack. A very different tactic to their traditional kick and mark game. In the midfield, they manned-up with the Demons, forcing Melbourne to switch play across the field to go around the Eagles' midfield-wall. This was new territory for the no-nonsense Demons, who are more used to playing a direct attacking game. The difference between the teams in the first quarter, was simply the class of the Melbourne forwards. Bailey Fritsch and Tom McDonald each booted two first-quarter goals, whereas the Eagles wasted their shots.

Bayley kicks
Fritsch kicks (D Woodley / AFANA)

The second stanza was all about defensive football. Both teams tackled relentlessly and there were frequent stoppages as ball carriers were prevented from clearing ball. It wasn't pretty football. Fritsch's brilliance which gave Melbourne an early goal was an exception. To their credit, when the Eagles' forwards lost the ball they kept the heat on the Melbourne defenders, preventing the Demons from building transitions into attack.

However, gradually the Demons' experienced midfielders Christian Petracca, Todd Viney and Clayton Oliver fired-up to win more contested possessions. In addition, Brodie Grundy was dominant in the ruck and his follow-up work at ground level virtually gave Melbourne an extra midfielder. Eventually, the scoring deadlock was broken with five minutes to go. Tim Kelly marked and goaled from 50 meters to reward the persistent Eagles. Then a cool Fritsch pass to Alex Neal-Bullen gave the latter some space to snap a reply for the Demons. The last frantic minute saw Conor West draw a free kick to goal for the Eagles. A Viney pass was then marked (caught) by Charlie Spargo who kicked truly for the visitors to end the first half.

For the first five minutes of the third quarter the Eagles were hot at the ball, but only booted three consecutive behinds (worth a point each).  Then the Demon's mid-field dominance really emerged. A turnover initiated by Fritsch resulted in a goal to Petracca; and Viney added another, two minutes later. The Eagles stopped running. If they did get hold of the ball they were static, allowing the Demons to lock play in their own forward half for most of the quarter. A rare foray forward at the 15-minute mark allowed Oscar Allen to boot his second for the Eagles. However, Melbourne's dominance at center bounces gave them three quick goals through Tom McDonald (two) and Kade Chandler. To add an exclamation mark to Melbourne's dominant quarter, youngster Jacob van Rooyen booted his first goal for the match. The determined Eagles persisted and just before the siren Oscar Allen marked 50-metres out. His kick after the siren gave the Eagles their sixth goal, but the home side was already too far behind to have any hope of victory.

Kelly Goals
Kelly goals (D Woodley / AFANA)

Five minutes into the final stanza Petracca booted his second as Melbourne made repeated forward entries. Former Melbourne player Jayden Hunt bobbed up for a goal to the Eagles; but then van Rooyen, Kysaiah Pickett and Petracca each goaled for the Demons. Tim Kelly never stopped trying for the Eagles; and he and Sam Petrevski-Seton booted two late consolation goals for the home side. A final goal by Pickett and an after-siren shot by Fritsch, touched on the line (for a behind), summed up the Eagles' day. They fought hard but could not withstand the Demon onslaught.

Both teams head to Adelaide Oval next week for the 'Gather Round'. Melbourne meet the Essendon Bombers on Saturday and will need to work hard to beat the Bombers. The Eagles meet the Geelong Cats on Sunday. The Eagles have a snowball's chance in hell of beating the Cats, but based on today's game, that won't stop them from trying.

West Coast Eagles: 2.2 4.4  6.8  9.9   (63)
Melbourne Demons:  5.1 8.4 14.9 19.12 (126)

West Coast Eagles: Kelly, Gaff, Jones, Hunt, Allen
Melbourne Demons:  Petracca, Oliver, Grundy, May, McDonald

Article last changed on Monday, April 10, 2023 - 9:08 AM EDT

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