The West Coast Eagles entered the 45th Western Derby with a clear intent to wipe away all memories of their previous round’s meek capitulation to Hawthorn at the MCG. Back in their home territory, the Eagles were in no mood to offer their cross town rivals the opportunity of an upset win.
Fremantle began positively, hoping to bring honor to 6 foot 9 ruckman, Aaron Sandilands’ 250th game. Sandilands held his end of the bargain by dominating in the ruck and giving Fremantle frequent first use of the ball from the center. Lachie Neale and Connor Blakely involved themselves at center bouncedowns, but it was the Eagles’ attack on the ball carriers and their determination to win contested possessions against the inexperienced the Dockers that won them the game. Within the first minute Eagles’ captain Shannon Hurn, playing in the last line of defense, had halted a Docker surge and set off a chain of Eagle possessions that led to Nathan Vardy marking (catching) the ball at half forward. Vardy kicked to full forward Josh Kennedy who out muscled his opponent, Joel Hamling, to mark and then kick the first goal. Three minutes later Hurn initiated a chain of handpasses from defense which finished with the Eagles’ youngster Liam Duggan, who goaled. The young Docker midfielders were under extreme pressure and continued to bomb long kicks into their forward line which suited the taller Eagle defenders, Jeremy McGovern and Sam Butler, who cleared the ball and set up rebound attacks. At the 10-minute mark there was another break from defense which resulted in Mark LeCras delivering a long kick to a lively Kennedy who again marked, and scored the Eagles’ third goal. Two minutes later Eagles’ big forward, Jack Darling, received a free kick and fifty meter penalty to kick the Eagles fourth. After 16 minutes and nine failed attacks, the Dockers’ first goal was snapped by Cam McCarthy from the right forward pocket. However, the Eagles responded through Josh Hill who kicked two clever goals. Jack Darling kicked the seventh goal for the Eagles at the 27 minute mark of the quarter, when the umpire deemed he had been shepherded (shielded by an opposition player) from a marking contest and paid the free kick. The siren to end the quarter brought welcome relief for the shocked Dockers.
In the second quarter the Dockers raised their work rate and showed more desperation for the football. Cam McCarthy booted two goals. However the damage had been done by the Eagles and Kennedy, Hill and LeCras also kicked goals to keep the Dockers at bay. Sam Mitchell was creative in the center of the field for the Eagles and he was well supported by Andrew Gaff and Matt Priddis. David Mundy and Nat Fyfe had relatively quiet nights for the Dockers, despite Sandiland’s ruck dominance. The Eagles had done their homework on the main Docker playmakers.
The second half of the game became an arm wrestle but the outcome had already been decided by the Eagles’ dominant first quarter. The Dockers outscored the Eagles by only 1 point in the third quarter and 3 points in the fourth quarter. West Coast were too tall in attack and they also had a height advantage in defense. On a perfect dry warm night for football, with little or no breeze, the big men dominated in the air. The Eagles midfield were matched by the Dockers in desperation from around the 15-minute mark of the second quarter, but the horse had already bolted. By applying midfield pressure the Dockers were succeeded in restricting the supply of the ball to the big Eagle forwards, Darling and Kennedy. When the Dockers players generated more run through the middle of the ground they were able to deliver with better accuracy to their forwards. Shane Kersten benefited most from the improved Docker tactics and scored two goals in the third quarter. The teams took turns to kick goals in the last quarter, concluding with Mark LeCras smothering a kick and then skilfully soccering the ball through the goals. That one act, symbolized Fremantle’s night; as many of the Eagles’ goals were a direct result of Docker turnovers. Fremantle made 51 attacking entries compared to West Coast’s 52. The more experienced, West Coast players were simply much more efficient in attack and defense, when it counted.
Next week West Coast travel to Adelaide to play the freewheeling Port Adelaide Power. The Eagles will be hoping they can produce good form on the road. Fremantle remain at home to play the revived Essendon Bombers, the Dockers may need to bring some taller players into their team.
Scores West Coast Eagles 7.2 10.5 13.6 16.7 (103) Fremantle Dockers 1.2 3.2 6.4 9.8 (62) Best West Coast Eagles: McGovern, Kennedy, Gaff, Yeo, Mitchell Fremantle Dockers: Blakely, Langdon, Neale, Johnson, Sandilands
Article last changed on Sunday, April 30, 2017 - 7:21 PM EDT