Chris Kowald reporting for AFANA from Optus Stadium, Perth
The West Coast Eagles won contested possessions and used their height advantage in attack and defeated the Port Adelaide Power to record their sixth consecutive victory. Port offered little challenge, except briefly during the third quarter. Port’s coach, Ken Hinkley, was obviously disappointed with his players’ lack of hardness and desire to compete.
The Eagles, for their part, continue to snub their nose at the conventional wisdom that a team should have only one ruckman and a running forward line, as employed by both the Western Bulldogs and Richmond to win the last two premierships. The Eagles’ tag team ruck pair of Nic Naitanui and Scott Lycett dominated an underdone Paddy Ryder at center bounces. Ryder, returning from injury, played well, but was no match for the two Eagles who won the tap outs 56 to 19 and gave their small men first use of the ball. The tactic of quick clearances and long kicks to big forwards, Jack Darling and Josh Kennedy, paid dividends as the Eagles’ forward line opened up and left the Power defenders isolated from marking contests. If the Port defenders did contest marks (catches), the ball invariably spilled to the Eagles’ small forwards Marc Lecras and Willie Rioli. Rioli, playing just his sixth game, was electric in attack and good things seemed to happen whenever he touched the ball.
Port’s attack was based on handpassing and running the ball out of the midfield. The intention was to reduce the opportunities for Eagles’ defender Mitch McGovern to intercept with his ball reading and aerial skills. Port avoided their usual targets Charlie Dixon and Justin Westhoff, allowing Jared Polec and Sam Gray to both nip into open space and kick goals to keep the visitors in touch in the first quarter.
In the second quarter the Eagles developed a manic desire for physical contest, to the extent that by halftime the Eagles had dominated contested possessions 87 to 55. This restricted Port’s ability to set up their running game; and turnover breakouts to the Eagles saw them leave Port floundering with just three goals on the board before the main break. Andrew Gaff and Jack Redden lifted a gear and deftly worked with Elliot Yeo to launch Eagle attacks. In effect, the Eagles won the game with this sustained second-quarter attack on the ball.
The continued mid-field dominance of the Eagles saw them skip out to nine goal lead half way through the third term; but then Port found some space around the contest and their running game clicked. In the second part of the quarter, Port sparked and scored four unanswered goals through Jack Watts, Sam Gray, Riley Bonner and Charlie Dixon. Sam Gray who battled hard all day for Port Adelaide, finally saw some positive results from his work. Jared Polec was also dangerous when he had the ball.
A goal within the first minute of the fourth quarter by Steven Motlop brought Port within 24 points and gave Port a sniff of hope. However, when Eagles’ utility player Mark Hutchins drilled a goal from the boundary at the nine-minute mark, and then six minutes later Rioli kicked into space to allow Jack Putruccelle to snap truly, the gate was well and truly shut. Late Eagle goals to Darling, and then Kennedy, quelled any hope of Port recovering some pride in their performance.
Next week Port play in Adelaide for a "showdown" with their bitter hometown rivals, the Adelaide Crows. The Eagles travel east to test the injury depleted Greater Western Sydney Giants. A win against the Giants will confirm the Eagles as genuine contenders.
Scores West Coast Eagles: 4.1 9.3 13.4 16.6 (102) Port Adelaide Power: 2.1 3.2 8.2 9.6 (60) Best West Coast Eagles: Redden, Gaff, Darling, Hutchings, Yeo Port Adelaide Power: R. Gray, Boak, Byrne-Jones, Polec, Motlop
Article last changed on Tuesday, May 08, 2018 - 3:03 PM EDT