A last-minute goal by marquee recruit Brady Grey helped West Coast claim a memorable victory against West Perth at Joondalup Arena on Sunday.
After dominating the contest for much of the game, the Eagles conceded three last-quarter goals to relinquish their lead in the dying minutes before Grey got on the end of a slick coast-to-coast play and sealed a last-gasp 5.15 (45) to 6.6 (42) victory.
Hamish Brayshaw led the Eagles’ midfield with 29 disposals, while Brayden Ainsworth collected 26 touches.
Keegan Brooksby, Bailey Williams and Nathan Vardy were outstanding in the ruck combining for 64 hit-outs.
Blake Wilhelm was the Falcon’s best with 27 disposals.
Wet and windy conditions made for a scrappy start to the elimination final, as both sides struggled to grab control of the contest.
Rudy Riddoch got the Falcons on the board with a long-bomb from outside 50, before the Eagles responded with a Luke Foley snap around the body.
Minutes later Grey got his hands on the ball and worked his way through traffic to boot West Coast’s second goal.
But the Falcons responded via Michael Lourey, who got on the end of a coast-to-coast play and streamed into an open goal to reduce the Eagles’ advantage to two points at the first break.
The second quarter was all one-way traffic, with the Eagles dominating possession and territory for much of the term.
In spite of their supremacy around the contest, West Coast could not break away from West Perth as they struggled to make the most of their opportunities in front of goal.
After kicking five consecutive behinds to start the second, captain Fraser McInnes finally got the breakthrough with a beautiful set-shot from near the broadcast boundary.
The Eagles had several more opportunities to extend their lead but failed to capitalise, booting 1.7 for the term.
They had to settle for a 27-13 lead at half-time.
After leading the inside 50 count 41-15 in the first half, the Eagles continued to get first use of the football, as they recorded nine of the first 11 inside 50s of the penultimate stanza.
As the Eagles’ struggles continued in font of goal, Keegan Knoot kicked truly following a 50 metre free kick to bring the margin back to 10 points.
But Andrew Fisher got the quick reply with a sensational left-foot snap, gifting West Coast a 13-point advantage at the final change.
It's time to dig deep pic.twitter.com/VTC1G4lghJ— West Coast Eagles (@WestCoastEagles) September 1, 2019
Benjamin Delaporte got West Perth rolling with an opportunistic goal at the start of the fourth term before Liam Tedesco kicked truly from 40 metres out to cut West Coast’s advantage to four points.
Riding the momentum of the West Perth crowd, the Falcons continued to pile on the pressure, pumping the ball inside 50 as red and blue faithful became increasingly vocal.
And when Knott slotted a goal from 40 metres out, West Perth appeared to have stolen victory.
However, West Coast would have the last laugh.
With less than two minutes on the clock, the Eagles worked the ball down the broadcast wing and Bailey Williams snapped up a sensational one handed grab on the 50-metre line.
The exciting youngster worked his way off the mark, and spotted an open Grey dashing down the far win.
He hit the marquee recruit with a precise pass and Grey finished his good work with an imperious running shot from 45 metres to steal the lead.
The Falcons had one last opportunity to pinch the game when they pumped the ball inside 50, however Xavier O’Neill cleared the ball to Andrew Fisher and the siren sounded to confirm West Coast’s three-point win.
Our will to win won't die! pic.twitter.com/xlhZPa6dna— West Coast Eagles (@WestCoastEagles) September 1, 2019
West Coast will now turn their attention to Claremont, who succumbed to South Fremantle by seven points in the qualifying final.
Brayden Ainsworth said the team was relieved to come away with the win.
“It feels pretty good,” Ainsworth said post-match.
“It was a do-or-die game and to get the win like that was pretty special, so the boys were pretty pumped.
“They (West Perth) finished strong last week, so we sort of prepared for that situation. They took the game on and credit to them they really came back at us, but luckily Brady kicked that goal at the end to give us the victory.”
The Eagles will now face a Tigers team featuring two-time Sandover medallists Jye Bolton and Kane Mitchell.
Ainsworth said the side will embrace the challenge of taking on the star-studded midfield.
“As a team we just need to play our roles and just stick to the basics,” he said.
“They’re a very good side, they’ve got a great midfield with Bolton and Mitchell. They’re all good players who can get the footy, so we need to be ready.”