Eagles grind out Derby win

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    West Coast have recorded a scrappy win in the Western Derby over the Fremantle Dockers, to sneak back into the top eight at the end of the round.

    While the Dockers arguably had the better of general play, finishing with 12 more inside 50s, they were unforgivably wasteful in front of goal, and ultimately recorded five goals and fourteen behinds.

    That trend began early, with Freo held goalless in the first term despite a number of chances. Liam Duggan, Shannon Hurn, Tom Barass and Jeremy McGovern were stifling in the Eagles’ defence, and made it hard for the Dockers to get a good look at the big sticks.

    At the other end, West Coast were battling to get first use of the ball, but were much more effective than their opponents moving the ball into their forward line. They found forward space and more importantly goals much easier to come by, and went into quarter time with a solid four goal lead.

    That early break roughly held for the rest of the game, as a familiar pattern began to emerge.

    While the Dockers seemed to have an advantage in the middle, they simply couldn’t find a cutting edge in front of goal. David Mundy, Michael Walters, Nat Fyfe and the Hills all missed gettable chances, which prevented Freo from making real inroads into the margin.

    West Coast for their part didn’t really take advantage of the Dockers wastefulness to the extent they should have done. It was a strange first half marked by a lot of skill errors and more tension than real excitement. But the Eagles continued to hold a healthy lead.

    The Eagles started more brightly in the third term to kick the first couple of goals and push the margin out to five goals. The Dockers continued to miss chances, and it wasn’t until the final minute that Walters broke his side’s second half duck.

    Having been given a tiny glint of opportunity to get back in the game, a sloppy 50m penalty gave Josh Kennedy a goal after the siren to push the margin back to 29 points at the last change.

    To their credit, Freo kept fighting, and looked like they might finally make their charge in the last quarter, kicking consecutive goals.

    But that was as close as it got, as the Dockers seemed to run out of legs and West Coast finished them off to record a 30 point win.

    West Coast captain Shannon Hurn was unanimously awarded the Ross Glendinning medal after a fine defensive performance on a back flank, with 34 possessions.

    Liam Duggan was also noticeable in a similar role, playing arguably the best game in his young career.

    Andrew Gaff, Jack Redden, Dom Sheed and Matt Priddis were all busy in the West Coast midfield, while Josh Kennedy was a solid forward target with third goals.

    For the Dockers, Lachie Neale was probably their best with 34 touches, Connor Blakely continued his good season with 33 possessions, and Fyfe continued to build on his improved form with 30.

    Walters with two goals was their only multiple scorer, but he didn’t have the influence he has done in previous weeks.

    This result brings the Eagles to a 9-7 record, and hanging on just barely to eighth spot.

    One could argue that today’s unconvincing performance was a bit below what you’d expect of a finalist, but then they did get an important win.

    They travel to Melbourne next week for a big game against the Pies, and a chance to push themselves further inside the top eight against a lower ranked team.

    The Dockers now sit two clear games and a heft lot of percentage outside the eight, and it’s hard to see them recovering to play finals from here. Today they appeared to kick themselves out of finals contention.

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