Hawthorn were heavily criticized last week after their embarrassing and humiliating defeat against the struggling Essendon. They were labeled “soft” by their supporters and their courage when going for the ball was questioned. This week they found themselves playing in Perth without key forward Buddy Franklin, out with injury, in a game that was set to be an even match up. The disconcerting fact for the Hawks was their dismal record at Subiaco Oval where they have won only one game in the last fifteen years. The Eagles were playing for pride in front of their home crowd with a one win and five loss record and expectations were high for them to run all over the hapless Hawks. To atone for their shocking performance in Round Six, the Hawks declared they had come to play and their fans were certainly hoping to see them bring some more backbone to this encounter.
In the opening minutes of the game the play was mostly with the Eagles until Clinton Young snapped the first goal for the visitors after their first foray into the 50 meter arc. Josh Kennedy quickly evened things up when he was given a free kick in front of goals as a penalty for a fairly crude and reckless high tackle. He followed up soon after when a run and carry through the middle by Ben McKinley delivered a pass that gave Kennedy back to back goals. The Hawks kicked the next two majors, one as a result of a 50 meter penalty given to Grant Birchall. Veteran Eagle Quinten Lynch kicked his first goal in some weeks after being dropped from the team for poor form. The resulting score had both teams tied at 19 points when the first quarter ended.
Again the second quarter started with the Eagles making all the moves and looking ready to take the game apart. Kennedy kicked two more goals followed by another from Lynch. West Coast had their tails up and an 18 point lead. The recently maligned Jarred Roughead pegged one back for the Hawks, but they looked tired and missed the presence of Franklin as a forward target. Mark LeCras had been lurking with intent on the periphery for most of the game when Nic Naitanui, in a surgeon-like piece of ruckwork in the forward pocket, hit him on the chest with the ruck tap. LeCras turned on a dime and kicked his first goal of the match to give the Eagles a 19 point lead as the siren sounded to end the half.
Hawthorn started the second half with more purpose and had much of the play in their forward half. A 50 meter penalty saw Birchall score the first goal to cut into the Eagles' lead. Cyril Rioli had exerted little influence to this point and his turnover in the center of the ground gave LeCras his second goal to steady West Coast. Roughead worked his way into the game and scored a goal when a disastrous handball from Beau Waters missed the target. Two quick goals to the Hawks had them back in the game and only seven points down. Although they looked menacing, the heat was taking its toll. Injuries saw the Hawks down by two on the interchange bench with only 20 able bodies to finish the match.
One statistic that has haunted the Eagles so far this season has been their last quarter scoring differential, with opposition teams scoring a total of 122 more points than them in the final term. The Eagles decided that the best form of defense was attack and they used the center of the ground to mount their offense. LeCras scored early to give the home side a cushion on the scoreboard. When Kennedy and LeCras scored again, there was an air of confidence about the West Coast home crowd that the game was now beyond reach. The teams traded goals and Hawthorn would not say die in spite of being undermanned. The final few minutes were heart stopping with Roughead stepping up to the plate in Franklin's absence and kicking the last three goals of the game, giving him a total of six for the match. The final quarter became a shootout with ten goals scored and old-fashioned gut running the style of play.
In the end the Eagles managed an eight point victory but this contest again exposed their lack of finishing power. Teams know that if they stay reasonably close towards the end of the game they have a real chance of knocking West Coast over.
As for Hawthorn, this is a team in the wilderness. With a third of the season played, they are effectively out of the Finals race. Their management and fans expect more from a team that won a Grand Final only two years ago and who now find themselves second from the bottom. The future for the Hawks looks bleak indeed.
Scoreboard West Coast 3.1 8.5 10.8 15.12 (102) Hawthorn 3.1 5.4 9.7 14.10 (94) Best West Coast J Kennedy, D Cox, N Naitanui, B Ebert, S Hurn, M LeCras Hawthorn L Hodge, J Roughead, C Brown, B Sewell, C Peterson, J Lewis
Article last changed on Thursday, May 13, 2010 - 8:32 PM EDT