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West Coast Eagles

WAFL: Gutsy Eagles outlast persistent Bulldogs

Nic Reid booted two goals against the Bulldogs on Saturday

West Coast have won back-to-back games for the first time this season, knocking off second-placed South Fremantle to shoot themselves back into finals contention.

The Eagles jumped out to an early lead in wintry conditions before withstanding a fierce fourth-quarter comeback by the Bulldogs to prevail 11.12 (78) to 8.9 (57).

Josh Smith was best-on-ground with 27 disposals and two goals, while star forward Jake Waterman booted four goals. Midfielder Haiden Schloithe was the Bulldogs best with 25 disposals and three goals.

Nic Reid got the Eagles up and running with the first goal of the game, before a Nathan Vardy set-shot and Smith’s first major from point blank range gave the visitors an early 21-0 advantage.

A fifty-metre penalty gave the Bulldogs their first goal courtesy of Haiden Schloithe, as West Coast took a 14-point lead into the first break.

Conditions worsened as both sides traded goals throughout the second term, before a late goal to Smith gave the Eagles a 44-23 lead at half-time.

The Bulldogs came out firing in the third quarter but failed to capitalise on the scoreboard, kicking three behinds inside the first five minutes.

Waterman made no such mistake at the other end, kicking the Eagles’ first of the second half to push West Coast’s lead beyond four goals.

Back-to-back goals by Zach Strom and Dylan Main kept the Bulldogs in the contest, before Reid and Hamish Brayshaw returned the favour to give the Eagles a 65-38 lead at the final change.

Jacob Dragovich trimmed the margin back to 21 early in the fourth, before a Mason Shaw set shot brought the margin back to within three kicks.

When Schloithe converted two minutes later, an unlikely comeback seemed on the cards with the Eagles hanging on to an eight-point lead midway through the fourth term.

In desperate need of a spark, Bailey Williams took an incredible pack mark, before converting from outside 50 to give the Eagles some much needed breathing space.

Waterman then kicked his fourth goal to put the result beyond doubt as West Coast hung on for an impressive 21-point victory.

The Eagles’ defence was superb, limiting South Fremantle to just 33 per cent inside 50 efficiency despite the Bulldogs having 51 inside 50s for the game.

The Eagles now sit a game and percentage outside of the top-five.

Williams said the team’s confidence had grown considerably over the past two weeks.

“It’s a great feeling to string a couple of games together,”Williams said.

“We’ve really got our eyes set on that top five spot, so we’ll be pushing hard for it.

“It was a focus during the week to be more attacking with the ball and take the game on and I feel we did that.”

Williams praised the Eagle’s pressure around the contest, which was on full display with the team tallying a season-high 92 tackles.

“We were sticking our tackles today which was good,” he said.

“That type of intensity certainly becomes infectious amongst the playing group when you’re out there.”