West Coast has mounted an inspirational comeback to overcome top-eight rival Geelong by nine points and keep its winning streak alive after a thrilling Saturday night clash at Optus Stadium.
The Cats came to the Eagles’ nest armed with a plan – to restrict the home side’s ball movement by controlling possession themselves – and executed coach Chris Scott’s instructions almost to perfection.
Leading from the six-minute mark of the opening term, the visitors weren’t headed until 12 minutes into the final quarter.
But willed on by a raucous 26,211-strong crowd, the Eagles surged home in the second half, booting seven goals to three to record a 11.7 (73) to 10.4 (64) triumph.
A remarkable pack mark by champion forward Josh Kennedy and fourth goal with just over a minute to play sealed the deal, sending the blue and gold army into raptures.
It was Kennedy’s third in the heartstopping final term, reminding yet again there is plenty of life left in the superstar’s legs.
The victory was West Coast’s fifth-straight – and only the second time this year a team has won after trailing at the final change - and has kept Adam Simpson’s men right in the top-four mix at the halfway mark of the campaign.
The Eagles are sitting fourth on the ladder, a win behind pacesetters Port Adelaide and Brisbane, and two points ahead of reigning premier Richmond.
Midfield bull Elliot Yeo (20 disposals, five tackles, seven clearances), ball magnet Dom Sheed (24 disposals, 15 contested possessions, two goals) and dynamic skipper Luke Shuey (23 disposals) drove the win from the engine room, with plenty of assistance from former Cat Tim Kelly (23 disposals), against his old club for the first time, and star ruck Nic Naitanui (seven inside 50s, four clearances).
Naitanui was pitted an exciting battle with Esava Ratugolea for most of the night, and it was his sublime palm from a forward 50m stoppage to unlikely rover Josh Kennedy for his third goal that ignited the Eagles.
Minutes later Jack Darling coolly threaded the eye of the needle from the pocket, putting West Coast ahead for the first time since a stunning opening, before Kennedy finished the job.
West Coast made a dream start from the first bounce, with Naitanui finding Shuey, who dished to Kelly, whose long bomb was marked by Kennedy in the goalsquare for the first major inside 16 seconds, before Geelong had touched the ball.
But not much went the Eagles’ way from there, with the Cats hitting back through Zach Tuohy’s classy long-range finish and Sam Menegola, before Sheed’s precision finish levelled things up.
In an entertaining opening, Darling’s first again drew West Coast back to parity, and his 389th career goal saw him equal gun goalsneak Phil Matera in fourth place on the club’s goalkicking charts.
With every forward 50 entry the Eagles looked dangerous, but Geelong was dominating possession (+25 disposals at half-time) and controlling the speed of play, with the well-coached and organised Cats tightening the squeeze in the second term.
Geelong’s three unanswered majors blew the margin out to 22 points before Sheed expertly crumbed Liam Ryan’s spilled speccy attempt at the 22-minute mark.
The Eagles were in some ways fortunate to be within three goals at the major break, although Geelong’s incredible accuracy – kicking 7.0 – was the first time in 105 years since they had not kicked a behind in the first half.
To work their way back into the game, the Eagles need a huge ‘premiership quarter’ and sensing the moment the vocal crowd created a cauldron of noise.
With Yeo ratcheting up the pressure and Shuey dashing through the middle, West Coast burst into life, with back-to-back goals by small forwards Liam Ryan and Jamie Cripps closing the margin to single figures.
The visitors steadied through Tom Hawkins’ second but, critically, Brendon Ah Chee outmanoeuvred his opponent at the top of the goalsquare - sneaking up behind him like a queue-jumper – and marked just seconds before the siren and setting up a huge final quarter.
Suddenly, the wind was back in the Eagles’ sails, just eight points down at the final change and many of the key indicators – inside 50s (35-28), clearances (29-22) and contested possessions (81-79) – reading favourably before Adam Simpson's men ran over the top of the Cats.
The only sour point for the evening for West Coast was a concussion suffered by debutant Harry Edwards in the second term which ended his game.
WEST COAST 3.0 4.2 7.6 11.7 (73)
GEELONG 4.0 7.0 9.2 10.4 (64)
West Coast: Kennedy 4, Sheed 2, Darling 2, Ryan, Cripps, Ah Chee
Geelong: Tuohy 2, Hawkins 2, Menegola, Duncan, Dangerfield, Parfitt, Miers, Simpson
West Coast: Naitanui, Sheed, Yeo, Kennedy, Shuey, Kelly, Duggan
Geelong: Stewart, Duncan, Tuohy, Guthrie, Menegola, Dangerfield