West Coast Scrape Home, Again
by Tim Stone reporting for AFANA @ Subiaco, WA
It may have been a small consolation, but West Coast have inflicted the knock out blow to Sydney in the much anticipated Grand Final rematch in Round 15, in front of a packed house at Subiaco on Saturday.
And didn’t they get their moneys worth...
Sydney, who won a thrilling 2005 Grand Final by less than 1 straight kick, had the same outcome inflicted upon them as the Eagles extracted sweet revenge in front of 41,000 blood thirsty supporters. To make the result all the more painful for Sydney, the game was decided by inches, not points.
It could also be argued that the visitors were robbed by the mediators. A free kick count to the tune of 35 -14 in the Eagles favour was a noticeable leniency towards the home side.
The game was unique in its lack of consistency. Each quarter had its own tempo, requiring a different game plan, and resulting in a scoring pattern that would baffle most statisticians. Each quarter was a polar opposite to the next. No supporter, commentator or reporter knew how the next chapter in the game was going to be written, the game thrilling and excitement packed from woe to go.
A flurry of scoring was the scenario of the opening stanza. It was a quarter that saw the visitors burst out of the gates, scoring 4 of the first 5 goals of the match. Barry Hall controlled the game with an iron fist as his side were 19 points the better of West Coast at the 17 minute mark of the first quarter as the hype and adrenalin started to settle.
West Coast was able to steady the tide though, as its captain in Judd fired off a spearing kick from his valuable right foot to lift the home towns spirits and Eagles score to something more respectable.
Hall was quick to goal back for Sydney however, his second goal came with swift retribution to Judds goal at the other end. The arm wrestle continued as Selwood goaled late in the quarter, only to have the 6 points snatched straight back from the boot of Goodes. The Swans were able to round out the quarter with 6 goals, 3 goals clear of slow starting Eagles.
A war of attrition took place in the second quarter. The game was nowhere as free flowing, but equally as exciting. It was a long and arduous 18 minutes of football before any team could break the seal.
An entertaining scrap saw all players having a dig. The first goal came from a Chris Judd error, a rarity from this player for not only the game but the season.
His kick across the ground was picked off by Leo Barry. The Swans rebounded quickly, on the receiving end of the transition was Goodes who was, to the surprise of everyone watching, unmarked and the only man inside the forward 50. He ran his measure before forced to kick, and was never going to miss as he sprinted to within 20 metres of goal and kicked truly to give the Swans the ascendancy.
Braun did his best to affect a turnaround in momentum, his smother and kick to an unmanned Hanson inside their attacking 50 was inspired and a credit to his tenacity. However West Coasts first mark inside 50 or the game went unconverted.
West Coast had only 7 inside 50s to the 20 minute mark of the second, and was unable to make the most of their rare opportunities.
Things went from bad to worse for the home side as big bad Barry Hall steamed onto a pass from Goodes like a freight train, making the West Coast defence look like amateurs. His mark and goal was summation of the contrast between the sides, Sydney as dominant as they were patient, and equally as damaging in their conversions of the rare chances the quarter presented.
Halls goaled treated Sydney to a half time break of 32 points. However, just when the game seemed to be going one way, it went another.
The third quarter was all West Coast. The opening minute was enough to show the entertained crowd that the game was quickly about to change. Lynch snapped a goal in the first 60 seconds, and 5 minutes later Banfield took advantage of a Stenglein infringement to run into an open goal, and return the margin to 19 points.
The Swans appeared to be stuck in second gear as the Eagles kept the pressure mounting. 5 clearances to 0 was evidence enough that the comeback specialists were looking to do just that.
The quarter was only 7 minutes old, and the margin could have very easily been 13 points were it not for a miss by Beau Waters from a free kick. Chris Judd had a snap on goal not a minute later, and had he goaled the crowd would have surely needed oxygen from the excitement.
The tempo lifted and pulses raced as the game went into gridlock. Goodes and Stenglein were involved in perhaps the most pivotal battle, both combatants fought whole heartedly and affected the game when presenting for their respected jerseys.
McVeigh had a chance to steady the Swans but hit the goal post. Minutes later he had another opportunity from the same position, and hit the other goal post.
The hard work and irony would not have gone unnoticed on McVeigh, as Lynch snapped a goal at the other end of the ground with a fluky kick that defied logic. The way in which it turned in mid air or even carry the distance to make it across the goal line defied physics.
The game was 11 points the difference as the siren sounded, and it was well and truly game on for the last quarter.
Again the game went into a stalemate. Time elapsed as the scoreboard went unchanged, the Swans with the lead were the beneficiary because of this. This was not as comforting for the Swans faithful who were quickly noticing that their side were clearly running out legs fast.
Both teams missed chances, the Eagles were able to edge the game with missed chances. Their unconverted hard work was all but undone when Barry Hall basked himself in glory. He marked between two Eagles players and kicked his fourth to give the Swans a 14 point lead, and their first goal since the 27 minute mark of the second quarter.
Inspired football followed as bodies were thrown with reckless abandon at the hotly contested ball. Waters goaled off the ground as the game got to the “must goal now” scenario for West Coast. 19 minutes elapsed, his goal had restored the game back to 8 points.
Bevan had to be carried off on a stretched off for the Swans, a ramification of the frantic pace and courage the players were showing at the cut throat part of the game.
The Eagles rolled the dice as the Swans looked to shut down the game, kicking to the top of the square to find the ever reliable Hunter marking at the top of the goal square. The player that always pops up when the team needs him to didn’t fail as he goaled, the game 2 points the difference, with 5 minutes to play.
It was almost the last chance for Swans to put on a score when they somehow worked the ball forward under their heavy legs. A Sydney brigade clearly running on a tank below the empty line, Barry Hall was able to shake two defenders off and find first gamer Phillips 40 metres out and directly in front. He struggled for the distance as he threw his tiny 65kg of weight behind the ball, only managing to score a behind off hands. The scoring shot meant there would be no chance of the game going to a draw, the Swans 3 points up and only a few minutes remaining.
Not even Steven King could write the suspense story that took place in the final minutes.
The entire crowd, players and umpires were simply sucked into the tension and drama as the ball bounced around like a hot potato. The ball popped up out of a pack only to fall into another, like seagulls around the last chip they fought and struggled for clean possession.
Players rushed possessions and West Coast slowly pushed forward as gasps of oxygen were taken simultaneously by the packed out crowd. It was Stenglein who finally managed a clean possession with a snap from 30 out. His kicked bounced up on its end as Craig Bolton dived away from Embley who held him back just long enough to affect the outcome of the game. The crowd were on their feet with bated breath as he dived towards the rolling ball. The game was decided in his desperate dive for the ball, and if he could get to the ball before it crossed the line. His fingers laid upon the leather, but all of an inch too late as the goal umpire on the line assessed, and put out both fingers to signify a goal as the Eagles took the lead for the first time in the game.
The game seemed to run past its expiry date as the Swans had one last ditch effort that nobody would have thought time would permit. Jude Bolton had a belated snap, but all in vein as it crossed the desired area and through for a point.
The Eagles with possession were able to waste what remained of the clock as they ran out miraculous winners in the last minutes, after trailing by as much as 32 points at half time to win by 2 points in front of a stunned and jubilant Subiaco crowd.
West Coast Eagles 3.1 3.3 6.11 9.13 (67)
Sydney Swans 6.3 8.5 8.8 9.11 (65)
West Coast Eagles
Adam Selwood (2)
Quinten Lynch (2)
Tyson Stenglein (1)
Beau Waters (1)
Chris Judd (1)
Adam Hunter (1)
Drew Banfield (1)
Barry Hall (4)
Adam Goodes (2)
Ryan O'Keefe (1)
Sean Dempster (1)
Luke Vogels (1)
Article last changed on Sunday, July 23, 2006 - 3:39 PM EDT