It couldn't have looked much worse for the West Coast Eagles. Last week the Eagles were smashed 205 points to 34 by the thirteenth placed Sydney Swans. The Eagles' reserves team mirroring their senior team by anchoring the ladder of the local competition, were yesterday thrashed by East Fremantle 215 to 31. Their best player Tim Kelly was ill and unable to play against the St Kilda Saints - and the Saints gunning for a percentage boost (percentage calculated by dividing points for by points against) to get them into the top four. The Saints had their first goal on the board after just fifteen seconds of play courtesy of youngster Mitch Owens. The script said the Saints would win convincingly but the problem was that the Eagles hadn't read the script.
A much improved Bailey J Williams matched St Kilda's Rowan Marshall in the ruck and the Eagles equaled the Saints in clearances. The Saints lacked conviction early and the Eagles burnt with a determination not seen all year. After six minutes of tight play, Oscar Allen marked fifty meters from goal to convert and get the Eagles flying. The game for the Saints suddenly became much tougher. The Eagles broke through with another goal at the eighteen-minute mark to Jack Darling; and then a minute later, a brilliant snap by youngster Noah Long had the Eagles on top. The Saints rallied at the end of the stanza with goals to Owens and Max King, but still trailed at the end of the first break.
In the second quarter the confidence of the Eagles grew. The Saints became more involved with Brad Crouch's tackling a feature. He was supported by Jack Steele and a mobile Rowan Marshall in the midfield. However, the Eagles kept up the pressure through the efforts of Luke Shuey and Shannon Hurn. Each team won their share of clearances but it was the desperation of the Eagles in defense, led by Hurn, Tom Barrass, and Alex Witherden that gave the Eagles the edge in this stanza. The Saints struggled to break free in attack to score. The Eagles confidence blossomed as they moved the ball across the ground to patiently set up attacks. Additionally, when they won the ball in defense their midfielders spread to give direct rebound into attack. The Eagles accuracy with set their shots was a strong factor keeping the Saints under pressure. The Eagles' young players Bailey J Williams, Ryan Maric, Elijah Hewitt, and Jack Williams all booted goals in a productive quarter. Barrass had control of the Saints spearhead Max King, so it was left to the tall youngster Anthony Caminiti to boot two goals to keep the Saints within touch by the long break.
The Saints began the third quarter with increased intensity. Defensive pressure in their forward line caused a turnover resulting in a Jack Higgins goal. The Saints tried to go high to King but Barrass still had his measure in the air. A change of tactic saw a quick transition from defense down the middle of the ground, which finished with Dan Butler soccering a goal. Mitch Owens snapped a clever goal after reading the ball off a pack and it looked like the Saints would take over the match. However, through the work of Luke Shuey, Dom Sheed, and Reuben Ginbey the Eagles fought back with goals to Oscar Allen, Jack Petruccelle, and Elijah Hewitt. Not to be outdone, the Saints came again towards the end of the quarter with goals via a Dan Butler snap, a free kick to Jade Gresham, and a clever Bradley Hill handpass to Mason Wood who snapped truly.
The final quarter began with the desperate Eagles attacking, but the first goal was scored by Mitch Owens after the Saints brought the ball out of defense to King at half forward, who kicked long to Owens in the goal square. The Saints were in front, but the Eagles didn't surrender. With both teams exhausted, mistakes crept into the game. Repetitive turnovers and missed shots on goal added to the drama of a tense final quarter. The Saints booted six more behinds (worth a point each) but the Eagles could only boot three. The last being a gettable set shot missed by Jamie Cripps with thirty seconds on the clock. The Saints hung on to win the game and stay in the race for the top four, but they didn't get the big victory they needed. The Eagles lost the game but gained some much-needed respect.
Next week St Kilda travel to the MCG to meet the Melbourne Demons, who will start favorites. The Eagles have the daunting task of playing the Brisbane Lions at the Gabba in Queensland. Eagles supporters will be hoping their team's desperation will be repeated. However, the chances of beating the Lions at the Gabba are exceedingly slim.
Scores West Coast Eagles: 4.1 9.2 12.2 12.5 (77) St Kilda Saints: 3.0 5.2 11.7 12.13 (85) Best West Coast Eagles: Hurn, Witherden, Barrass, BJ Williams, Shuey St Kilda Saints: Crouch, Marshall, Sinclair, Owens, Wood
Article last changed on Monday, July 03, 2023 - 2:18 PM EDT