Eagles sink battling Hawks
Up for grabs: West Coast's Adam Selwood and Hawthorn's Cyril Rioli battle for the ball last night. Photo: Getty Images
WEST COAST 0.8 0.12 2.16 5.21 (51) HAWTHORN 0.4 2.7 3.13 5.16 (46)
GOALS West Coast: Darling 2, Kerr, Hill, Kennedy. Hawthorn: Rioli 2, Lewis, Franklin, Osborne.
BEST West Coast: Kerr, Waters, Glass, Naitanui, Darling. Hawthorn: Sewell, Mitchell, Gibson, Franklin, Schoenmakers.
INJURIES West Coast: Shuey (shoulder). Hawthorn: Hale (head knock), Birchall (knee) replaced in selected side by Bruce.
UMPIRES S Meredith, J Dalgleish, R Findlay.
CROWD 40,080 at Subiaco.
HAWTHORN is developing a heartbreaking habit of getting itself into heart-stopping finishes, but losing them. The preliminary final against Collingwood last year, then round two against Geelong this year, and against West Coast at Patersons Stadium last night when the Hawks led for much of the game but lost football's equivalent of a defensive shutout 5.21 (51) to 5.16 (46).
The Eagles, grieving for defender Will Schofield whose father John died suddenly during the week, looked home after kicking three goals clear in a gripping final quarter, given the low scoring nature of the game.
But the brilliance of Cyril Rioli dragged the plucky Hawks back within reach of victory. Unfortunately for them, when they needed another act of Rioli brilliance to snatch this, he was sidelined with severe cramp in the dying seconds.
The first quarter was goalless but hardly a scoreless draw. West Coast managed eight behinds, and though two of them were rushed, a number of opportunities were wasted. None more so than the one power forward Josh Kennedy butchered seconds before quarter-time when he had a shot at goal from an angle with teammates Quinten Lynch and Josh Hill awaiting a pass in the centre corridor and not a Hawks defender in sight.
Significantly, even though they too were goalless, and were behind at quarter-time, it would have been the Hawks who went to the first break with their chins in the air.
They knew that 16 West Coast inside 50s had amounted to nothing and, at a ground where the Eagles have regularly put opponents to the sword early in matches for more than a year, they at least had a toehold.
Two minutes into the second term, when Michael Osborne brilliantly threaded a screw kick from the pocket, the toehold became a foothold and 17 minutes into the quarter, when Lewis kicked an even better goal on the run from the same pocket, the Hawks had a grip, albeit not a stranglehold on the game.
The Eagles were locked into their own defensive 50 and were making critical skill errors under pressure.
''Lock the ball in'' had become ''get the bloody thing out'' as the Eagles back line turned from attacking launch pad to last line of defence and the midfield turned to occupied Hawthorn territory.
Lewis, Sam Mitchell and Brad Sewell were superb in providing the grunt the Hawks fed off. At the other end Josh Gibson dealt heroically with several Eagles forward thrusts.
West Coast had more of the ball, but in damp conditions couldn't establish field position. Its leading ball winners Daniel Kerr, Beau Waters and Scott Selwood were winning most of their touches back of centre. Its two perceived areas of advantage heading into the game - in the ruck and their tall forwards - had been cancelled out.
And Hawthorn was prepared to kick its way through the press and was doing it effectively enough to not get hurt on the scoreboard.
West Coast appeared to shake off the shackles early in the third term when, after going goalless for half a game for the first time in eight years, it goaled twice in the first three minutes of the third quarter.
The Eagles' first of the match came from a Hill steal in the goalsquare. The second came after Kennedy marked and goaled from 30 metres just 90 seconds later. But then, just when it appeared the game might open up, it was back to the grindstone. The Hawks re-established their edge at ground level midfield and did most of the attacking for the remainder of the quarter. But it was their turn to be wasteful.
There would be only one more goal in the third quarter and Lance Franklin had to be within sniffing distance of the goals to kick it after getting away with a subtle push on two defenders in a marking contest.
Finally, halfway through the last quarter, Darling cracked the game open and Hawthorn's stern resolve appeared to crack with it. He got loose at half-forward and nailed the goal that put the Eagles in front. He turned Gibson inside out and nailed a second on the run to put them the best part of two goals clear.
When Kerr managed a grubber the Eagles were three goals clear. And yet back the Hawks came via two pieces of sheer Rioli magic, the first a brilliant grubbered snap from near the boundary line, the second a set shot while cramping. Ten minutes after they looked like winning easing away, the Eagles won hanging on.
A SEVERE BRAIN FADE
What was Josh Kennedy thinking? Perhaps it was more a case of what he wasn't seeing. With seconds remaining in a goalless and barren opening term, he streamed goalwards in what was clearly West Coast's best attacking chance of the quarter. Running in support were teammates Quinten Lynch and Josh Hill. There wasn't a Hawthorn player in the same suburb. The problem was, Kennedy didn't see them and didn't look. He took the shot, missed and a clash between two of the top-four fancies went to quarter-time without a goal between the teams.
The Hawks champ is certainly standing his ground on those along-the-ground kicks. Roundly criticised for missing two critical last-quarter goals in the heart-stopper against Geelong two weeks ago, Lance Franklin tried another against the Eagles, with no more success. Having said that, he wasn't having much luck going the aerial route either, running up 1.6 for the night. His free-kick count wasn't flash either, earning just two and conceding seven.
How about the call in the dying seconds that saw the Hawks pinged for holding the ball when two of their players, Brad Hill and Michael Osborne, appeared to be wrestling with Chris Masten for possession? The Eagles will claim a few bloopers went against them as well, with Franklin getting away with a push in a marking contest for his goal and Luke Shuey pinged for a deliberate out of bounds in the final term.