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West Coast Eagles

Eagles gain momentum with win against gritty St Kilda

Dan's damaging in the forward line After applying constant team pressure, the Dan Venables snaps one through the big sticks!

West Coast started Saturday night with its players stuck in a hotel lift and with its premiership defence stuck in a rut.

But just as the small group of Eagles were able to extricate themselves from the elevator, the team itself was able to ease any growing nerves over a rocky start to the year and steady its season at 5-3 with a settling road victory.

Having lost two of its last three matches going into the weekend, West Coast's 18-point win over an injury-depleted St Kilda did little to quell any concerns over an unconvincing and inconsistent month of footy.

Brilliant at times and frustrating at others, the Eagles eventually did enough to overcome the test of a battered and bruised Saints outfit to claim a 12.16 (88) to 10.10 (70) win.

But while it was far from perfect for Adam Simpson's side, there were signs of the West Coast the footy public has come to know and expect over the last 18 months.

Its midfield was prolific – Andrew Gaff, Dom Sheed, Luke Shuey, Elliot Yeo and Liam Duggan all won more than 20 disposals to overpower a vastly improved St Kilda onball group.

Its forward line was dangerous – Josh Kennedy and Liam Ryan flew high for a series of pack marks, while the pressure generated from Jamie Cripps was contagious.

Its defensive system held firm when the tide changed – Shannon Hurn marshalled proceedings and proved key to holding the Saints to just 10 goals for the game.

With a host of key players still to return from injury, the reigning premiers are coasting.

St Kilda, on the other hand, are just managing to keep heads above water. Saturday night's result was the club's third straight defeat and, while the Saints were brave, sticking with their highly touted opponents for the best part of three quarters and refusing to lie down at any stage, they were eventually overwhelmed.

Now 4-4 on the season and with a lengthy injury list, St Kilda would have to defy expectations throughout the remainder of the year to keep its fading finals hopes alive.

Both sides had gone into the night facing more questions than answers. Perhaps fittingly, then, they played out a first half flush with effort but littered with mistakes.

West Coast had threatened to claim the ascendency, but each time the visitors edged clear they were just as quickly pegged back by a St Kilda side sensing its opportunity.

A 20-point lead struck early in the second quarter was reduced to just seven at the main break. An 18-point lead created early in the third was quickly trimmed back to six.

The only thing missing was the Saints kicking on to claim an advantage of their own.

Therefore, when West Coast again pushed clear – led by successive Kennedy goals on the stroke of three-quarter time – it appeared St Kilda's resolve was finally broken.

Four straight goals eventually improved that margin to 30 points at the final change, which proved marginally too much for St Kilda to overcome.

Although the Saints whittled away at that deficit throughout the final term, overturning it completely always appeared unlikely.

MEDICAL ROOM
St Kilda: The Saints finally got through unscathed. Jade Gresham copped a nasty blow to his hip midway through the third quarter, but soldiered on and played out the game.

West Coast: Jeremy McGovern came from the field due to a blood rule in the second quarter, having sustained a cut above his eye, but he played out the match.

ST KILDA       2.1   4.5   6.8   10.10 (70)
WEST COAST  3.3   5.6  11.8  12.16 (88)

GOALS
St Kilda: 
Kent 2, Billings 2, Bruce, Gresham, Sinclair, Savage, Membrey, Steele
West Coast: 
Kennedy 2, Petruccelle 2, Allen 2, Cripps 2, Venables, Ryan, Sheed, Darling

BEST
St Kilda: Dunstan, Bruce, Ross, Battle, Billings, Gresham, Savage
West Coast: 
Hurn, Cripps, Yeo, Sheed, Shuey, Gaff, Ryan

INJURIES
St Kilda: Nil
West Coast: 
Nil

Reports: Nil

Umpires: Donlon, Nicholls, Glouftsis

Official crowd: 24,246 at Marvel Stadium