by Lisa reporting for AFANA from Chicago
The West Coast Eagles have earned the right to a rematch of last year's Grand Final by beating the Adelaide Crows, in Adelaide. The Blue and Gold battled back from a 22 point deficit at half time and recorded one of the club's best wins in a Final ever. The opening of the game was tight and tough as one would expect from two of the best performing teams of 2006. But it was the Crows who were the first to settle, and had the Eagles on the back foot with three goals to just two behinds from the Eagles. Those goals had the home crowd roaring. The first was a long bomb from Bock, the next a clever snap from Welsh, and the third came from a strong mark from Burton in the goalsquare. The Eagles added just two more points for the term, giving the Crows a 17 point lead at quarter time.
The Eagles finally posted their first goal two minutes into the second term through Kerr but Bode snagged two on either side of one to Hunter. Burton - aka the Birdman - then took a spectacular one-handed grab and his goal had the Crows 22 points clear at the half. But the lead came at a cost, with Biglands off halfway through the term, leaving Clarke to shoulder the ruck burden against Cox and Seaby. The Eagles worked their on top through much of the 3rd term with goals to Hunter, Embley, and Cousins narrowing the gap to just one point. Edwards and Hunter traded goals before McLeod snapped a long goal to give the Crows an eight point lead at three quarter time.
Both sides stepped up a notch in the final term but it was the Eagles who drew first blood with a goal to Hunter again, getting the Eagles within a solitary point. Goals to Lynch and Embley within the next four minutes put the Eagles 12 points clear. Clarke and Butler goaled for their respective sides before Bock added two goals with 30 seconds remaining to get the Crows within four points. The Crows had one last chance as they won the center clearance, but that chance evaporated when Edwards caught Stenglein high at the bounce, giving away a free kick. West Coast was then able to break from the middle and Fletcher passed to Hansen, who marked and then kicked a goal after the siren. Not only does the win set up a Grand Final rematch, but also gives the Eagles a record four successive wins over Adelaide.
The previous three wins were by 16 points in last year's preliminary final at Subiaco Oval, two points at AAMI Stadium in Round 2 this season, and 82 points at Subiaco in Round 17. The Eagles have now won six of their 21 matches at AAMI Stadium, five of 15 against Adelaide, one of six against Port Adelaide.
For the Eagles, it was the usual suspects of Judd (27/3), Cousins (27/6), Embley (24/9), and Braun (21/7) in the midfield with support from Butler (24/6). Cox was again a force in the ruck with 16 hitouts and was more than handy around the ground with 27 disposals and six marks. Kerr (25) was solid as he rotated between midfield and a forward pocket, while Jones (18/7) was solid in defense. For Adelaide, Goodwin (23/7), McLeod (16/6), and Edwards (24/8) starred while Burton (16/7) provided more aerial antics for the highlights reel. Johncock mopped up well across half back while Bock (14 kicks 10 marks) did well at center half back. Bode kept the Crows in it with strong leading and marking, while Reilly (17/6) and Thompson (18/6) were good links between the midfield and attack.
WCE 0.4 2.7 6.12 11.19 (85)
ADE 3.3 6.5 8.8 11.9 (75)
GOALS: WCE - Hunter 4, Embley 2, Lynch, Kerr, Cousins, Butler, Hansen;
ADE - Bock 3, Bode 2, Burton 2, Edwards, Welsh, Clarke, McLeod
BEST: WCE - Cox, Judd, Cousins, Embley, Hunter, Butler, Kerr; B. Jones
ADE - Johncock, Goodwin, McLeod, Edwards, Reilly, Burton, Thompson, Bode, Bock
INJURY: ADE - Biglands (knee)
UMPIRES: Ellis, Ryan, Goldspink
CROWD: 50,514 at AAMI Stadium
Source: Melbourne Age & afl.com
Article last changed on Sunday, September 24, 2006 - 6:18 PM EDT