Attack fires AFL’s Hawks clear of Eagles

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Hawthorn forwards Jarryd Roughead and Jack Gunston have booted five goals each as their side’s star-studded attack lifted the AFL’s top-placed club to victory over a dogged West Coast.

The Hawks’ hard-fought 19.9 (123) to 16.7 (103) triumph at Etihad Stadium on Friday night gave them 11 wins straight and if they can down Brisbane in Launceston next Sunday they’ll equal the club record streak of 12 set in winning their maiden premiership in 1961.

But Friday night’s win didn’t come easy against the ninth-placed Eagles, whose finals hopes took another hit as they fell to a 6-6 record, lost Shannon Hurn to an apparent achilles injury and could also lose veteran Andrew Embley, who dropped his knees into Ben Stratton in the second term.

The Hawks also had their share of injuries, with Grant Birchall (knee) subbed off in the third term, fellow defender Josh Gibson (ankle) leaving the field in the last quarter and clever forward Luke Breust playing on despite damaging an ankle in the second quarter.

The Eagles had the midfield ascendancy, with Nic Naitanui outstanding in the ruck, helping midfielders Andrew Gaff, Luke Shuey, Chris Masten, Scott Selwood and Matt Priddis all have highly-productive nights.

West Coast dominated the centre clearances 20-9 and entered their attack six more times than the Hawks.

But while Josh Kennedy (five goals) fired in attack for West Coast, he had little support, whereas almost everything that Hawthorn’s forwards touched turned to gold.

Roughead shone early and Gunston throughout, while Breust (three goals) and Lance Franklin (two) were also dangerous.

The Eagles led by two points at the first change, helped by Naitanui’s stunning first-term goal, in which he took the ball directly from a goalsquare ball-up and put it through with his left boot before he hit the ground.

Sharpshooter Mark LeCras extended West Coast’s lead to eight points early in the second term.

But Hawthorn booted the last six goals of the first half, including a brilliant roving effort from Breust, to lead by 26 points at the main break.

The Eagles kicked four of the first five goals of the third term, including two to Kennedy directly from centre breaks, to narrow the margin to eight points.

Roughead answered with his fifth from a strong mark.

West Coast had the chance to make it closer entering the final term but a costly botched kick by Jack Darling heading into attack led to a turnover, Hawthorn goal and 21-point last-change buffer.

The brave Eagles kept fighting in the last quarter, but the closest they got was 14 points with less than two minutes left.

Hawks coach Alastair Clarkson said his side did well to cope with losing Paul Puopolo (quad) in the warm-up and their other injuries during the game.

He said while their attack shone, they were thrashed in the stoppages at various times.

But he was pleased to win a close game, as they did against Carlton last week.

“We’ve played two sides that have been pretty desperate over the past two weeks and to not play our best footy and be challenged in both games and still get on top is really pleasing,” Clarkson said.

He said Birchall should recover for next round but the extent of Gibson’s injury was uncertain.

West Coast coach John Worsfold could see some positives despite the defeat.

“There was a lot of good stuff out of tonight but it really means nothing unless we can keep building on that,” he said.

Hurn’s injury turned out to be his ankle and it will need scans.

© AAP 2014
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