For­mer Gee­long star fires for Ea­gles

Sunday Territorian - - SPORT -

GEE­LONG looked like it had found the se­cret to un­pick­ing premier­ship favourite West Coast, but fell vic­tim to a pow­er­ful sec­ond half fight­back from the premier­ship favourites, who won a Satur­day night thriller 11.7 (73) to 10.4 (64) at Op­tus Sta­dium last night.

The Cats built a 22-point lead half­way through the sec­ond quar­ter, tak­ing away the Ea­gles’ mark­ing game with a high-pres­sure as­sault that had them poised for a mem­o­rable win.

But the Ea­gles proved they are on an­other level, kick­ing four of the last five goals in a clas­sic clash that was sealed by cham­pion for­ward Josh Kennedy in the last two min­utes.

For­mer Gee­long star Tim Kelly was one of the best on ground for the tri­umphant team.

The 2018 premiers moved equal on points with fourth­placed St Kilda, win­ning their fifth straight match as they build fear­some form dur­ing an ex­tended run at home. Ruck­man Nic Nai­tanui was sub­lime at stop­pages, set­ting up mid­field­ers Luke Shuey and for­mer Cat Tim Kelly with his vast ar­ray of artis­tic taps.

The rea­son West Coast chased Tim Kelly so hard was en­cap­su­lated at the open­ing bounce in the star mid­fielder’s first game against his for­mer club.

Nic Nai­tanui won the tap down to cap­tain Luke Shuey, who hand­balled to Kelly on the burst, with the 26-yearold send­ing the ball deep to Josh Kennedy for the open­ing goal. It was the new Ea­gles’ mid­field at its best, and it all hap­pened in 12 sec­onds.

There was clearly still re­spect be­tween Kelly the clear­ance spe­cial­ist and his for­mer Cats team­mates.

Kelly picked up 23 pos­ses­sions and five clear­ances., with his clean han­dling in traf­fic a clear sign he is on top of his game.

The Cats showed they knew how to beat the Ea­gles. They just didn’t main­tain the pres­sure for long enough.

West Coast av­er­aged an AFL-high 84 marks be­fore Satur­day night’s clash, but there is a mas­sive con­trast in their abil­ity to get into space and mark in wins and losses.

Gee­long’s Harry Tay­lor gets tack­led by the Ea­gles’ Tim Kelly. Pic­ture: PAUL KANE/GETTY

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