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Magpies get their reward

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Magpies knock out Eagles

Collingwood has clinched a preliminary final berth after defeating West Coast.

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COLLINGWOOD 3.4 4.5 8.10 10.13 (73)
WEST COAST
5.1 6.4 7.6 9.6 (60)
GOALS Collingwood: Thomas 3, Swan 2, Jolly, O’Brien, Blair, Pendlebury, Goldsack. West Coast: Darling 2, Hill 2, Cox, Kerr, Kennedy, Naitanui, McGinnity.
BEST COLLINGWOOD: Thomas, Reid, Jolly, Goldsack, Beams, Pendlebury. WEST COAST: Gaff, Kerr, MacKenzie, Glass, Shuey, Hill
UMPIRES J Schmitt, M Stevic, B Rosebury.
CROWD 65,483 at MCG.

COLLINGWOOD can, and has, played a lot better quality football than it did last night, and will certainly need to if it is to have any chance of winning the premiership.

But the Magpies can at least tick off the category headlined ''effort''. Because their semi-final win over West Coast last night was as gritty as anything they've produced in the past few years.

Caught Coaster: Eagle Matt Priddis is swamped by Magpies at the MCG last night.

Caught Coaster: Eagle Matt Priddis is swamped by Magpies at the MCG last night. Photo: Paul Rovere

This was one of those victories the fans will be sticking on the DVD player for years to come. Not necessarily for any individual highlights, of which there were few, but for the gut-busting, lung-crunching, wholehearted effort their boys produced to close down, then head, then hold off a side which had early on looked ready to teach them a lesson.

It was a Collingwood win out of the old Tommy Hafey mould, big on heart, and marked by its victories in those hard indicators of contested possession, clearances and tackles, wins which wore West Coast down.

Not that the Eagles were going to go down without one hell of a struggle. Collingwood hit the front only a tick over two minutes into the second half, but the most it would ever lead by was 17 points in a low-scoring scrap in which eight goals were kicked in the first quarter, then only another 11 for the rest of the game. West Coast looked more tired the longer it lasted but still managed to put three consecutive goals together to lead as late as eight minutes into the final term.

But that the Magpies had turned the tables at all was remarkable in itself given how the Eagles had shot out of the blocks for a 23-point lead, as if this were merely a continuation of last week's demolition job on North Melbourne.

The heroes were everywhere. Key defender Ben Reid was superb on Eagle forward Josh Kennedy. Tyson Goldsack tremendous again in a defensive forward role. Darren Jolly a tireless and effective virtual lone hand against West Coast ruck pair Dean Cox and Nic Naitanui, who were relatively subdued. Scott Pendlebury and Dayne Beams prolific in midfield.

For the Eagles, Andrew Gaff was a constant source of run, and veteran Daniel Kerr both classy and brave in equal measures.

Things couldn't possibly have started any more promisingly for the Eagles, four goals to the Magpies' zip after 15 minutes. Jack Darling had the first after a free kick against Heath Shaw for impeding his run. The second after a fumble by Collingwood veteran Chris Tarrant, with Patrick McGinnity a grateful recipient. The Eagles were dominant.

The Magpies appeared to have hit back courtesy of Andrew Krakouer, until the big screen revealed that Andrew Embley had already taken the ball over the line, and one of the season's more controversial video referrals wiped the score out. And Collingwood's frustration was compounded when Andrew Gaff speared another damaging pass to Josh Hill, who converted from a tight angle.

Gaff had a hand in the next, too, Kerr converting with ease on the run after being fed a handball by McGinnity, who was also doing plenty of damage. The situation was bordering on critical for the Pies.

Collingwood found something, though. First, the Magpies started winning the hard ball. Then they began to create scoring opportunities, at first squandered by Tyson Goldsack, among others, but then the ledger was gradually restored.

Some tackling heat forced Eagle Chris Masten to dish off a handball blind and in dangerous territory, a series of Collingwood handballs finishing with Harry O'Brien, who finally got his team on the board. The Pie pressure told again when Ben Reid chased down Luke Shuey. The turnover gave the Pies another chance, gratefully taken by Scott Pendlebury. The Magpies were starting to find space.

The ruckmen then exchanged goals, Cox thanks to a contentious free, Jolly working into space and getting on the end of a pass from Alan Didak right on quarter-time. West Coast still led, but Collingwood had had more of everything else, which would hold it in good stead when this game became a real arm wrestle.

Just under 22 goalless minutes elapsed in the second term after Dane Swan kicked the first of the quarter until Hill restored the Eagles' lead to 11 points just on half-time. Which made what happened immediately after the break in the context even more game-breaking.

It was Dale Thomas' third quarter which had the biggest single individual impact. Serviceable without being spectacular in the first half, he exploded into action, drifting down from a wing to find space to mark and convert an Alex Fasolo pass. He did it again barely a minute later, latching on to a loose ball.

Five minutes later, he struck again, Collingwood in that time turning a two-goal deficit into an eight-point lead.

Were that not enough, he then valiantly pursued West Coast's Will Schofield as the Eagle streamed into goal, at least planting enough of a seed of doubt in his opponent's mind to make him hurry and miss a rare opportunity. That sort of pressure began to play tricks on West Coast minds; Shannon Hurn shanking a kick-in out of bounds, and watching horrified as Jarryd Blair sent the ball back over his head for a goal, and the Pies' biggest lead.

It was going to be tough for the visitors from there. They gave it one hell of a crack, though, Darling's goal on the three-quarter time siren and two quick ones to begin the last term to Naitanui and Kennedy restoring hopes. But that proved something of a last hurrah.

Collingwood knuckled down and made West Coast pay the heftiest price for a spectacular miskick by Andrew Embley, which ended in a goal to Goldsack, restoring the lead.

What would be the killer blow came from Dane Swan, and in a way defined this win. Swan had dropped what should have been a regulation mark, but pounced on the spills, swinging on to his right foot and curling home the winner. Like his team, he wasn't right at the peak of his powers. But hitting a peak of effort is sometimes at least enough to help you live to fight another day.

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