Eagles awaken, Naughton booked for striking
THE 2018 premiers are no longer stirring sluggishly from a summer slumber. They are wide awake and ploughing towards the top of the AFL ladder.
They had the Bulldogs for an early dinner at Optus Stadium. The 21.7 (133) to 10.12 (72) could have fooled people into thinking this was a belting from go to whoa. It wasn't. It was a tale of a middle of the road team being made to pay for missed opportunities by one from the top end.
A very good first half match up midfield became a second half rout because it was a complete mismatch in West Coast's forward line, and a complete misfire by the Bulldogs in their attack.
The Bulldogs will rue missed opportunities.
The frustration got to young star Aaron Naughton who appeared to be reported in the final term for a gut punch on West Coast defender Will Schofield.
At the other end, the West Coast attack dined out on a defence that didn't cope. Jack Darling swept all before him to kick six goals. Josh Kennedy chimed in with three despite a last quarter spell on the bench.
Jake Waterman, goalless in 2019 heading into the clash, came to life in the third term with three goals. Liam Ryan was goalless before half time but still walked off with three and Jamie Cripps, who helped get it all started when it wasn't all one way traffic, had to content himself with two.
It ended up being a big win for their midfield as well, after an early arm wrestle. Andrew Gaff ran tirelessly for 36 disposals which included seven inside fifties and six clearances. Luke Shuey had 30, Dom Sheed 25 with a spectacular third quarter goal. Elliot Yeo had 23 and pretty good goal of his own.
The Bulldogs got great run and direction from Caleb Daniel and Jason Johannisen off their backline, and a significant amount of grunt from Marcus Bontempelli, Tom Liberatore, Jack Macrae and Lachie Hunter around the middle.
But they wasted their chances in the first half when they had a toehold in the game. The found the toe removed by a brutal West Coast second half.
The Eagles had been level at quarter time. Not for the first time this year they had their own clinical finishing, and the not so clinical finishing of an opponent, to thank for being in touch in the game.
In many ways, the Dogs had held sway for much of the term. They held an edge in the inside 50 and contested possession counts and had taken twice as many shots on goal for the poor return of 2.7 with a further one sprayed out on the full.
Bontempelli had missed with the right foot from the top of the square. Naughton had missed from 40m directly in front, Liberatore had missed on the turn, snapping from 20m.
And at the other end, Cripps nailed an early left foot snap, Kennedy kicked straight off a set shot from 25m, Darling caught the Dogs defence too high on a fast break and ran into goal, dribbling it through from 25m.
It took a late Billy Gowers goal to get the Dogs even but they would have felt in the game, with the Eagles midfield on the back foot.
Western Bulldogs coach Luke Beveridge says his team is not good enough for long enough at the moment to challengethe likes of West Coast.
"The Eagles were just too good as far as sustaining their output," Beveridge said.
"We are not in that space at the moment where we are able to consistently sustain our own performance to the level we would like. We are not challenging sides for long enough at times.
"I am frustrated by the way we fell away in the third quarter and the early parts of the last. It was such a shame after an encouraging start that they gapped us like they did.
"We have been in those spots before, where we have had multiple shots and shot ourselves in the foot. In the end, some of the things we were doing well, the Eagles started to do better.
"Their centre-bounce stuff in the third quarter and how clean they came out of there started to cause some problems. They were really efficient and kicked straight, which was the flip side to what we were doing.
"Their physicality and their maturity got us a bit too as the game wore on."
By halftime it was West Coast who had the Dogs under the pump on the board, courtesy of a four goal to two second term that sent them to the main break with an 11 point lead.
Three Eagles forwards had shared the spoils, Cripps, Darling and Kennedy all booting two goals while Yeo's clinical finish from 40 metres on the run after a brilliant gather was a highlight of the term.
The Dogs continued to try to take the game on, and the Eagles defence on up the other end . Sometimes it worked and sometimes it blew up in their face and sent the ball the other way.
And sometimes they just muffed their chance.
First gamer Ryan Gardner, drafted in the mid-season rookie draft seven days ago, nailed Oscar Allen in a brilliant tackle just metres from goal but missed the regulation round the corner shot from the free kick.
Sam Lloyd kicked one and missed one. Gowers missed one. Naughton kicked one but had missed one in the first term.
And the Bulldogs had missed their opportunity. West Coast piled on nine third quarter goals to put this game to bed and blow the 11-point half time lead out to 49 at the final change. The bloke most pleased about this was Waterman, who hit a third quarter purple patch to kick three goals in five minutes.
They were Waterman's first goals of the year in his fourth game. The Dogs managed three of their own but it was like a garden hose against an incoming tide.
WEST COAST 3.1 7.3 16.5 21.7 (133)
WESTERN BULLDOGS 2.7 4.10 7.10 10.12 (72)
West Coast: J Darling 6 J Kennedy 3 J Waterman 3 L Ryan 3 J Cripps 2 D Sheed E Yeo O Allen W Rioli
Western Bulldogs: B Gowers 2 A Naughton B Dale J Dunkley M Bontempelli M Suckling R Gardner S Lloyd T Liberatore
West Coast: J Darling, A Gaff, L Shuey, E Yeo, B Sheppard, D Sheed.
Western Bulldogs: C Daniel, J Dunkley, J Johannisen, T Liberatore, P Lipinski, T English.
Umpires: Jeff Dalgleish, Mathew Nicholls, Leigh Haussen
Official Crowd: 53,195 at Perth Stadium