The Eagles Beat Off Resilient Bombers To Bounce Back From Last Weeks Tigers Defeat.
Just as the AFL are about to announce the location for the 2020 Grand Final, the Eagles bolstered their claim for a spot in the final, pushing themselves back into 4th place with their 10th win of the season.
The Bombers couldn’t quite pull off last week’s 6-goal comeback, with the Eagles holding out to win 9.6 (60) to 6.9 (45).
And even in the absence of Josh Kennedy, the Eagles frontline was firing on all cylinders, with Liam Ryan grabbing 4 goals, Jack Darling taking 2 and Oscar Allen causing chaos in the Bomber’s defence.
Adam Simpson praised the leadership of Ryan and Darling, stating, “Liam has really stood up. He’s one of our best players. I thought Jack Darling led really well, he’s a strong up and coming leader, he’s worked really hard on his leadership and he led from the front.”
Both teams struck early in the first quarter with Nic Naitanui commanding the Ruck contest, outreaching Sam Draper to get his first hit out of the night.
But he wasn’t done there, and for a big man, he can certainly shift, getting up-field quickly to recollect the footy around 60 metres out and play the ball into flyin’ Liam Ryan who took the Eagles first goal of the night.
The Bombers struck back immediately through some lazy Eagles defending, failing to pick up Anthony McDonald-Tipungwuti who collected a mark in heaps of space.
Worryingly for the Eagles, Jeremy McGovern seemed to jar his knee early on in the game, falling awkwardly after contesting for a mark but seemed to walk it off and remained on the field for the remainder of the game.
Luke Shuey then played a long ball into the Bomber’s 50 which was received by Oscar Allen who converted the Eagles second goal of the night.
Cale Hooker, making his 200th AFL appearance, proved himself a nuisance to Jeremy McGovern all game and did seem to get one over the defender to take a great mark early in the first term but couldn’t take the full 6 points.
The Bombers piled on the pressure and looked like they were doing well to disperse the Eagles defence, but missed more opportunities scoring 4 behinds in the first quarter.
But the Eagles weren’t so inaccurate and even after having his eye poked in a mark contest, Jack Darling still managed to collect himself and precisely slot the ball over from 49 metres out.
While under pressure, Essendon defender Jordan Ridley scuffed his clearance into touch 20 metres out from the Bomber’s goal. The Eagles took advantage of this great field possession and some lax defending from the Bombers with Bailey Williams hacking the ball through the sticks to get his first career goal.
After some scrappy patches of play, the Eagles midfield lumped more pressure on the Bombers defence, who struggled to clear their lines, with Barrass collecting the ball in the middle of the park, playing flyin’ Ryan into the Bomber’s 50 for his second of the night.
Ryan struck again immediately after with some great link-up play from Luke Shuey, Naitanui, and Tim Kelly who played a ripper of a kick into Ryan, who kicked his third of the night.
Nic Naitanui again showed why he’s the best Ruckman in the league, catching the footy in the middle of the centre circle and kicking to Jack Darling inside the Bomber’s 50, who got his second of the night.
But the Eagles didn’t have it all one way with the Bombers coming back scoring a late flurry of goals, the first through their captain Dyson Heppell, who took a long handball from Jake Stringer, moving the football away from the Eagles defenders, and converted to keep the Essendon scoreboard ticking over.
This gave the Bombers a big lift slotting another two more quickfire goals through McDonald-Tipungwuti and James Stewart. The umpires did go upstairs to check whether a valiant effort by Tom Barrass had stopped the kick from going over the line, but there was insufficient evidence on the score review to overturn the umpire’s decisions.
That reduced the Bombers deficit to only 16 points going into half time.
The second half started slowly with both teams struggling to hold onto the ball, but the entertainment was elsewhere with the two ruckmen, Naitanui and Sam Draper throwing a few handbags in the middle of the pitch.
Essendon struck first in the third quarter through McDonald-Tipungwuti who again took a mark in acres of space, getting his hattrick goal of the night.
The Bombers recovered the ball and it seemed like they could come back with the Eagles looking a little shaky at the back. But some excellent tackling from Jack Redden and a few strong hit outs from Josh Rotham kept the Bombers out.
Their defensive efforts led to Liam Ryan winning a contest on the wing and kicking to Jack Darling, who set up Tom Cole in front of the Square to get his first goal for Eagles after 52 appearances.
But it wasn’t all good news for the West Coast with captain Luke Shuey damaging his hamstring in the 3rd quarter. Shuey came back onto the field for the final segment of the game but will likely miss out on the final three games this season.
The Eagles showed dominance in the final quarter, holding back an advancing Essendon side with, Tom Barrass, Liam Duggan, Josh Rotham and Shannon Hurn all standing up to keep the Bombers out of a sniff of a late comeback. Hurn himself was solid all night taking 12 marks and 20 disposals and is our MOTM.
In what was an important win for the Eagles, it will be overshadowed by the injury suffered to Captain Luke Shuey, meaning Adam Simpson will have another selection dilemma in 5 days as the Eagles face the Bulldogs at the Metricon in round 16 on Sunday.
West Coast Eagles: Ryan (4.1); Darling (2.1); Allen (1.0); Cole (1.0); Williams (1.0); Jetta (0.2).
Essendon: McDonald-Tipungwuti (4.1); Heppell (1.0); Stewart (1.0); Daniher (0.3); Hooker (0.2); Snelling (0.2); Langford (0.1); Mosquito (0.1).
Our Eagles MOTM: Shannon Hurn.
Stand-Out Players: Liam Ryan; Tom Barrass; Andrew Gaff.
Injuries: Luke Shuey (hamstring).