Chris Kowald reporting for AFANA from Optus Stadium, Perth
The West Coast Eagles recorded their eighth consecutive victory and rose to the top of the Premiership table by defeating the Richmond Tigers on a perfect day for football in Perth. The Eagles used their ruck dominance and forward marking power to outscore the Tigers, who made uncharacteristic skill errors and were found wanting in the midfield.
The mercury hit 77 degrees Fahrenheit and was hot by Melbourne standards.
The Tigers suffered in the heat after halftime and were not as slick as usual. The Eagles took advantage of the windless conditions to float the ball high into their forward line where Jack Darling and Josh Kennedy ruled the air to take big marks (catches). Darling played his best game kicking six goals and taking 15 marks. Kennedy took five marks and kicked three goals. Mark LeCras was also dangerous up forward for the Eagles and finished with three goals and two score assists. Jack Riewoldt played virtually a lone hand for Richmond’s forward line. In a determined performance he took seven marks and kicked five goals but, he had to range far and wide for kicks.
The Tigers’ Josh Caddy kicked the first goal of the game after he took an excellent mark over Liam Duggan. The Eagles then responded with four unanswered goals to Jamie Cripps, Willie Rioli, Josh Kennedy and Andrew Gaff. During the first quarter the battle in the midfield was even, with Toby Nankervis matching Nic Naitanui and Scott Lycett in the ruck. Richmond had a slight edge in clearances through the work of Dustin Martin and Trent Cotchin. By the first break both teams had made thirteen forward entries but West Coast were on line and Richmond’s goal shooting was lamentable.
Richmond dominated in the second quarter and made 23 forward entries while West Coast made just four. Richmond used the tactic of winning contested possessions and running in waves through the midfield to boot long to Riewoldt. Kane Lambert, Shane Edwards and Martin got a lot of the ball for Richmond, but pressure from Eagle midfielders, Elliott Yeo, Andrew Gaff and Dom Sheed prevented the Tigers from breaking loose. West Coast defended doggedly with Jeremy McGovern reading the ball and taking crucial intercept marks when the harassed Tiger midfielders missed their targets. Naitanui and Lycett got on top of Nankervis in the ruck but this was negated by strong inside work by Tiger midfielders Sam Lloyd and Shane Edwards. At the main break the scores were even and it looked like the Tigers’ running game would trouble the Eagles.
However, there were ominous signs soon after the resumption of play with Naitanui winning the ball at the center bounce, passing to Yeo who booted high to Darling who marked and kicked truly. Four minutes later Yeo caught Dustin Martin in a tackle and the Eagles transferred the ball long, where Darling gathered and handballed to Kennedy who kicked a major.
A minute later Jake Waterman centered a ball from the boundary to Kennedy who marked in the goal square and the Eagles were away. Reece Conca capped a nice run out of defense for the Tigers with a goal, but any Tiger joy was only momentary. The Eagles quickly regrouped, and continued to blast into their forward line where Darling and Kennedy provided targets as McGovern, LeCras and Yeo all scored majors.
Any hope of a Tiger comeback in the final quarter was quickly squashed as the Eagles booted four early goals to seal the result. The Tigers had made 58 attacking entries, to the Eagles’ 45 entries, but finished eight goals behind. The Tigers had matched the Eagles in contested possessions, but it was in the air that the Eagles won the game. The Eagles took 111 marks to just 64 for Richmond. It is not fashionable to run two ruckmen and have three tall targets in attack. However, the Eagles have proved that a tall team can thrive, provided their smaller men place enough pressure on opposition ball carriers. Whether this structure will serve the Eagles in the depths of winter is yet to be seen. Perhaps, when the rain comes the smaller more mobile teams like Richmond will rule the turf, but not at the moment.
Next week the Eagles travel to Etihad Stadium to meet Hawthorn under the roof. The Hawks have dominated the Eagles at the MCG in recent times, but protection from the elements at Etihad will suit the Eagles’ game plan. Richmond return to the MCG and should not be troubled by a struggling St Kilda.
Scores West Coast Eagles: 6.1 7.2 14.6 20.10 (130) Richmond Tigers: 2.3 6.8 9.8 12.11 (83) Best West Coast Eagles: Darling, Gaff, Redden, Yeo, McGovern Richmond Tigers: Martin, Lambert, Houli, Reiwoldt, Rance
Article last changed on Monday, May 21, 2018 - 2:04 PM EDT