The Eagles defeated the Adelaide Crows on Sunday afternoon at the Optus Stadium. Here are our five takeaway’s from the match.
A Forward’s Master Class
There’s no doubt the Eagles are currently blessed with one of the best forward lines in the league. Jack Darling, Oscar Allen, and Josh Kennedy have all thrown their names in the hat for an All-Australian call up at the start of the season and caused all sorts of issues for the Adelaide Crows on Sunday.
No one:— West Coast Eagles (@WestCoastEagles) May 16, 2021
Jack Darling: Dribble kick nutmeg the oppo goal. pic.twitter.com/BNfQymIFp9
Jack Darling stood up as the best of the trio on Sunday. Booting five goals in the second quarter of the match, Darling changed the outcome of the game giving the West Coast a 30-point buffer against the Crows to kick on to secure the win.
He now sits in fourth place in the Coleman Medal leader board, with 27 goals to his name, and is as former Frankston centre-half Dermott Brereton stated on SEN 1116, “the best key-forward in the competition right now.“
And despite wowing us with an incredible nutmeg and a brilliant cross-body snap towards the end of the second term, it was his link-up play with Josh Kennedy that impressed the most. Operating deep inside the 50, the duo dragged Crows defenders out of position to create space for each other to get a run on their opposition to take marks coming over the top. They are without a doubt the most effective pairing in the league this season.
Jamie Cripps – Work Ethic
Since joining the club in 2010, Jamie Cripps has continued to impress with his elite work rate and ability to hunt the ball. Regularly being one of the West Coast’s best for tackles and pressure applied, Cripps took his game to another level at the weekend, recording 25 disposals and a whopping 11 score involvements.
We know how good the Eagles high forward line are at putting pressure on teams inside the 50, and Jamie Cripps is one of the Eagles best workers without the ball in hand, being ranked third in the league for tackles inside 50.
His service into the arc often goes unnoticed, and Cripps served up eight inside 50s on Sunday, the most of anyone in the side. As good as his tackling is, Cripps’ skills with the ball in hand are second to no one, and he proved that again on Sunday, kicking this lovely snap through from a tight angle on the sticks.
Contested Possession Problems
Despite the scoreline suggesting otherwise, it wasn’t the cleanest of wins for the Eagles, who took their feet off the gas in the second half of the match.
“We didn’t really play great today; we got the job done, they beat us in a few areas like the contested possessions, and I think we were minus eight inside 50s. We weren’t playing great, but we did enough,” Jack Darling said to 6PR.
For most of the second quarter, the Eagles dominated under the high ball, with Jack Darling and Oscar Allen taking some incredible contested marks inside the 50. But towards the end of the match, the West Coast were slow to get to the contest and allowed the Crows to take eight more contested possessions during the game.
The Eagle’s pressure differential was also a lot lower than Adelaide’s, and the Crows started to cause issues for the West Coast in the second half. Winning more ball in the middle of the park while kicking a flurry of goals just before three-quarter time, Adelaide turned up the heat on the West Coast, who struggled to gain momentum in parts of the third quarter.
Josh Kennedy and Jake Waterman stepped up to steady the Eagles’ ship late on in the third term, but if the West Coast will need to be more clinical to dominate the 50/50 battles if they are going to get a win away to a strong GWS side next week.
Sunday saw the return of champion defenders Tom Barrass and Jeremy McGovern, who slotted back into the side after a two-week injury lay-off.
Both were solid at the back for the Eagles and gave Crows full-forward Billy Frampton a hard time getting his hands on the footy. It’s been a tough couple of weeks without them, with Adam Simpson without them, having to juggle defenders around to shore up the backfield.
Tom Barrass was particularly influential, spoiling multiple attacks coming into the 50 while taking an incredible mark, rolling on the floor to collect a shot that was landing just a foot away from the goal line.
But their return will be welcomed even more by gun forward Oscar Allen, who moved higher upfield, back into his natural position in the full-forward line. He subsequently booted three goals for the Eagles and despite proving his dexterity over the last three weeks, showed his best position is deep inside the opposition 50.
Barrass and McGovern won’t be the only players returning to the side this week.
In what’ll be a massive boost for the West Coast, Adam Simpson also confirmed premiership players Liam Ryan and Shannon Hurn will be available for selection next against GWS if they get through training this week.
“Liam’s been swimming, which is new, so I think he’s pretty ready to get back into it. He trained fully, so he’s got to get through the week, but I think he’ll be available,” Simpson said in his post-match press conference.
“And Shannon (Hurn), I think he signed off yesterday, so he should be in the mix for this week as well. So, it’s been great to get some exposure in some of our younger players, but it will be good to get those guys back.”
Alex Witheden Half Forward Masterclass
It’s no doubt Shannon Hurn’s return to the field will be most welcomed by the Eagles, but he could have some trouble getting back into the side, considering Alex Witherden’s performance at the weekend.
The former Brisbane Lion was outstanding, taking three intercept marks while clogging up channels in the middle of the park to cut out the Crow’s attacks on Sunday. Witherden is also currently one of the best rebounders in the league, and he showed that on Sunday night, recovering the ball just off the Eagles arc to make ten rebound 50s during the match.
The 22-year-old also doesn’t shy away from getting his hands on the football, tying Andrew Gaff for the same number of disposals during the match. That is an achievement in itself.
Considering his recent form in the past three games, he is undoubtedly a shoe-in to keep his spot in the side next weekend.