The Collingwood Magpies defeated the West Coast Eagles in an epic battle by one point, to knock the Eagles out of the final series. The Eagles had been unbeatable in their seven home ground games this year but were knocked off their perch when it mattered most. The Pies were thrashed by the Eagles at Optus Stadium earlier in the year and few pundits expected them to come out of a COVID-19 lockdown and trouble the home team. With their respective seasons on the line, both teams began the match nervously with players dropping marks (catches) and fumbling the ball in the opening minutes.
In a Friday night (Melbourne time) Semi-Final at the Melbourne Cricket Ground, the Geelong Cats picked themselves up from their previous week's loss to the Collingwood Magpies, to keep their finals hopes alive and defeat the reigning Premiers, the West Coast Eagles. The Cats had been under intense media scrutiny all week, as many pundits predicted the Cats would again drop out of the finals series with two straight losses. The Eagles too had their own mid-week drama to deal with, as small forward Willie Rioli was handed a provisional suspension for interfering with a urine test administered by the Australian Sports Anti-doping Authority.
The Cats opened the game with a burst of goals. Their plan was clear. Run the ball through the middle of the ground, using handpassing and accurate kicking to catch the Eagle intercept markers [mark = catch] out of position. After nine minutes of play the Cats had booted three goals, keeping West Coast scoreless. Geelong's Captain Joel Selwood continually put his body on the line and midfielders Tim Kelly and Cameron Guthrie used their pace and ball skills to break the Eagles defensive lines. The Eagles abandoned their zone defense structure and played a man-on-man defense,
It has taken until the completion of round sixteen, but the reigning premiers are back at the top of the AFANA AFL Power Poll after thumping cross-town rivals Fremantle by 91 points on Saturday. The Eagles win coincided with Geelong going down to an improved Western Bulldogs and Collingwood being run over in the last quarter by Hawthorn on Friday night, signaling a change in not only the AFANA Power Poll but betting markets all over the country.
The Brisbane Lions announced to the rest of the competition that they are not only big improvers but a genuine threat to the top four with an away win full of merit against the fancied Greater Western Sydney Giants. Port Adelaide continued it's up and down season by crushing the favored Adelaide Crows in the "Showdown" at Adelaide Oval and the resurgent Kangaroos had another comfortable win, this time over a faltering Saint Kilda.
In an open fast-moving game, the West Coast Eagles survived a spirited challenge from the Melbourne Demons to win by sixteen points. The hard running Demons challenged the reigning premiers throughout the match by outpacing the Eagles in the center corridor. However, when their legs tired in the last quarter, the Demons resorted to kicking long into attack; which suited the intercept marking of Shannon Hurn and Jeremy McGovern - and the Demons were gone.
The West Coast Eagles survived a spirited second-half challenge by the Gold Coast Suns, to position themselves for a move into the top eight. After two consecutive thrashings, the Eagles were expected to work back into form against the young Suns; and that is what they did in the first half. The Eagles started slowly, put the Suns to the sword in the second quarter; but then struggled as the Suns fought back in the second half.
Port Adelaide Power used speed and wet weather grunt to comprehensively thrash the West Coast Eagles at Optus Stadium. The Eagles fielded a team unsuited to the conditions. It was cold, wet and windy and a team loaded with three tall forwards and two ruckmen, would always struggle in the slippery conditions. The Power lacked the height of the Eagles but they made up for it with midfield muscle and quick ball movement.
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.
West Coast Eagles vs Collingwood Magpies (Optus Stadium)
STATE OF PLAY:
The Saturday clash between West Coast and Collingwood is a top four battle of two teams that have been hit hard by injury during the season but have come through in pretty good shape nonetheless.
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.
After another top notch round of footy, Richmond holds onto top spot on the AFANA Power Poll as a result of its 47 point win over the Adelaide Crows, damaging the Crows chances of returning to finals football in 2018. Collingwood had to fight hard to defeat a determined Essendon, while the Swans stumbled at home against a very impressive Geelong.
Port Adelaide kept in touch with the top two after a comfortable win over Saint Kilda, the Eagles returned to the winners list in the “battle of the decimated forward lines” as they held off the Giants in Perth, and the Hawks solidified their run at the finals with a second half blitz to defeat the Bulldogs.