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Match preview: Eagles v Tigers

Travis King, AFL.com.au  May 16, 2018 9:00 AM

Jack Darling might lock horns with Richmond's Alex Rance at the weekend

Jack Darling might lock horns with Richmond's Alex Rance at the weekend

SUMMARY
The Eagles are making a mockery of gloomy pre-season predictions and if Adam Simpson's men aren't already considered serious contenders in 2018 they have another opportunity to prove it when reigning premier Richmond comes to town for a blockbuster top-of-the-table clash. West Coast comfortably accounted for the Giants in another valuable road win last round, and returns to the club's Optus Stadium fortress searching for eight consecutive victories for the first time since 2005. West Coast will be bolstered by Nic Naitanui's return from suspension and could regain Jeremy McGovern (calf). In-form forward Jack Darling (22 goals), Josh Kennedy (15) and Mark LeCras (15) pose a threat to the Tigers, but Richmond's small and quick forward line – ranked No.1 for scoring - will worry the Eagles. Superstar Dustin Martin is coming off just 16 touches thanks to Ben Jacobs' close-checking in Richmond's tense sixth-straight win over North Melbourne but he torched West Coast last season and how the Eagles counter the Brownlow medallist will be a major talking point.  

WHERE AND WHEN: Optus Stadium, Sunday, May 20, 2.40pm AWST

LAST FIVE TIMES
R3, 2017, Richmond 11.10 (76) d West Coast 8.17 (65) at the MCG
R4, 2016, West Coast 18.17 (125) d Richmond 9.3 (57) at Subiaco Oval
R12, 2015, West Coast 13.12 (90) d Richmond 10.10 (70) at the MCG
R18, 2014, Richmond 8.11 (59) d West Coast 6.6 (42) at Subiaco Oval
R10, 2013, Richmond 16.7 (103) d West Coast 8.14 (62) at Subiaco Oval 

THE SIX POINTS

1. Brownlow medallist Dustin Martin dominated in round three last season at the MCG, racking up 40 disposals, 33 of which were kicks, nine inside 50s, 15 clearances and two goals.

2. This will be a contest between the AFL's highest scoring sides. Richmond is averaging 102 points, while West Coast is narrowly behind at 99 points per game.

3. How the Tigers transfer their pressure game to fast-paced Optus Stadium will be intriguing to watch. Richmond is conceding only 68 points this year (AFL No.1), while West Coast is coughing up a goal extra per game (AFL No.5). 

4. West Coast's round one loss to Sydney is the only time an interstate side has won at Optus Stadium. However, Richmond’s recent record in Perth is impressive, winning on five of the last six trips west.

5. Richmond's rampant final quarters (+129 points this season) have been well-publicised but the Tigers are also the League's best first quarter team (+82). The Eagles have owned second terms, up by an AFL-high 129 points across the first eight rounds.

6. Reigning West Coast club champion Elliot Yeo has climbed to a career-high 45th in the Schick AFL Player Ratings – rising 35 spots this season – and could be handed the tough job keeping an eye on the game's No.1 player Martin.  

IT'S A BIG WEEK FOR … 
There are tantalising match-ups all over the ground but the AFL's best key defender Alex Rance and sidekick David Astbury have massive jobs ahead clamping down on star Eagles forwards Jack Darling and Josh Kennedy this Sunday. 

PREDICTION: West Coast by seven points