Nic Naitanui and Jeremy McGovern were the star performers during this year’s Indigenous Round win over the GWS Giants.Embed from Getty Images
The Eagles managed to hold out to the Giants to extend their winning streak to 8 games on the bounce, beating GWS 9.7 (61) to 7.7 (49) in front of a home crowd of 27,339 spectators, a season-high for 2020.
Nic Naitanui and Jeremy McGovern were the stars of the show with Naitanui once again dominating the midfield, popping up to get on the score sheet himself, and making 14 disposals throughout the game.
McGovern was also as imperious in defence, racking up 18 disposals and 11 intercepts, with one absolute worldy of a grab, putting himself forward for mark of the year.
The Giants came out ahead on the stats sheets with 57 more uncontested possessions and more inside 50s than the Eagles, but stats don’t win games! And the Eagles looked to be in control for most of the match, despite a late flurry of goals coming from the Giants in the fourth quarter.
Coach Adam Simpson stated, “a lot of the stats don’t look great, but we’ll take the win and move on.” It was clear though that the Eagles still managed to outclass a GWS side who seem to be in freefall after being demolished by the Swans last week.
Taking the lead early on, Tim Kelly punted through to Jack Darling who took a great mark just in front of the posts and slotted over for his first of the night.
Nick Naitanui showed he has been doing a lot of work on his accuracy in front of goal, cleaning up a loose ball, and with his back to the sticks, made a superb snap to keep the Eagles scoreboard ticking over.
Being involved in 7 score involvements throughout the game, Naitanui showed his class again, recovering the ball off the same restart and punted upfield to set up a goal for Josh Kennedy.
Naitanui’s quality has shone through in the past few games, producing some excellent performances, with one of the Fox commentators describing him as a “ruckman turned artist.”
GWS looked dazed in the first quarter, missing multiple chances to convert and scoring only 1 point in the first 16 minutes.
The Giants looked better in the second quarter, putting multiple balls into the Eagles 50 but could do little to get past McGovern, who rose high in the air to take a monster of a grab that will surely be a big contender for mark of the season.
After a blunder by Jackson Nelson, slipping just outside the Eagles arc and being pickpocketed by Bobby Hill, the Giants went through on goal for their first big goal-scoring opportunity. Although Nelson will have breathed a sigh of relief when Debutant Jake Riccardi scuffed his kick wide for a behind.
GWS gained some momentum before half time, catching the Eagles defence sitting high up the pitch, a positioning weakness we saw Hawthorn take advantage of last week. GWS reacted quickly to play a ball over the top of the West Coast backline to Brent Daniels who converted to give the Giants their first of the night.
The Eagles walked in 22 points up at half time, but took their feet off the gas in the 2nd half, conceding 2 goals in quick succession from debutant Riccardi and Stephen Coniglio in the third quarter.
Jamie Cripps and Liam Ryan put in another heroic display this week combining to set Jack Darling up for his 3rd of the night. Darling is another player in impressive form for the eagles and has scored in each of the last five games he has played for the Eagles.
And after Nic Reid’s debut goal last week, there was another fairy tale story for Eagles first gamer Xavier O’Neil, coming out of no-where to collect the ball off Brendon Ah Chee and poking it through the sticks for the first goal of his career.
Things got worse for GWS with their captain Callum Ward suffering a nasty fracture to his finger late in the third quarter, walking off the pitch with his finger pointing in all sorts of directions. Don’t watch the replays if you’re squeamish.
GWS came out flying in the fourth quarter scoring a late flurry of four goals, but it wasn’t enough to catch the Eagles who were comfortably in control of the match.
It was here we saw the real class of 4 time All-Australian Jeremy Mcgovern, who put on an incredible aerial show, dominating the GWS forward line, intercepting 11 kicks during the game. He was our man of the match and was superb under the high ball.
Simpson had great praise for McGovern after the game but also highlighted that the Eagles still have more to give, “We weren’t at our best tonight, but overall we got it done. I think that combined with our leaders, we’re in a reasonably good space.”
The win keeps the Eagles in 4th place in the league, four points off the top spot, but only two points ahead of the Tigers, hot on the Eagle’s tail in 5th place.
But with 5 games in 19 days, starting with a huge clash against the current premiers Richmond on Thursday night, the Eagles will want to kick on and maintain this run of form when they arrive in their new hub in Queensland on Tuesday.
West Coast Eagles: Darling (3); Ah Chee (2.1); Kennedy (1.1); Naitanui (1.1); Gaff (1); O’Neill (1); Allen (0.1); Shuey (0.1).
Our MOTM: Jeremy McGovern.
Stand-Out Players: Nic Naitanui; Jack Darling.
Injuries: Jackson Nelson, Oscar Allen taking knocks but should be available for Richmond on Thursday.