WEST Coast has won its first game of the season in thrilling fashion, clinging on to outlast Gold Coast by one point at Mineral Resources Park on Sunday.
The Eagles kicked three unanswered goals in an electric first quarter to establish a nice buffer, but were forced to defend an avalanche of inside 50s against them before hanging on 5.4 (34) to 4.9 (33).
EAGLES v SUNS Full match coverage and stats
Mikayla Bowen, who was brilliant all day for the victors, looked to have iced the win with her clever goal midway through the fourth quarter, but the Suns never relented.
Kalinda Howarth drew the Suns within two points with an acrobatic scissor kick with the ball in mid-air to set up a thrilling final two minutes.
Jamie Stanton's snap with 90 seconds remaining bounced the wrong side of the post for the visitors and that was to be their last chance.
The Eagles' first victory of 2020 came on the back of great dare when they had the ball.
Bowen (21 disposals and 389m gained) took the game on at every opportunity, while Maddy Collier (22) and Emma Swanson (22) also worked tirelessly.
The Suns will be kicking themselves for missing so many opportunities throughout the match.
They won the inside 50 count 34-20 – and led that statistic 22-4 at half-time – but lacked the polish of Daniel Pratt's team.
Stanton (14 disposals and 1.3) was magnificent, as was reliable defender Lauren Ahrens (19 touches and 462m gained), who repelled the Eagles regularly.
Did you see that?
It's been a quiet season to date for All-Australian forward Kalinda Howarth, but the flashy Sun announced herself with a bang late in the match. With her team trailing by eight points and time running out, Sally Riley took a shot on the run from 40m that was bobbling towards the goal-line. Howarth acrobatically scissor-kicked the ball from mid-air just as Eagle Maddy Collier attempted to touch it through.
Blink and you missed it
It wasn't how Daniel Pratt drew it up, but the Eagles will take it all the same. Early in the third quarter, Niamh Kelly took a mark well within scoring range following a lovely pass from her sister Grace. Her shot at goal was touched on the mark, where the alert Melissa Caulfield swooped on the loose ball and snapped with her right boot to kick truly.
If bad kicking is bad football, the Suns didn't deserve to win, despite their dominance in inside 50s. While the Eagles made the most of their attacking forays, David Lake's team simply frittered theirs away. Madison Levi (who was exceptional in general play) will rue some early set shot misses, while captain Hannah Dunn will wish she could have her shot back from 15m out that was touched by the player standing the mark. A little more composure and the Suns could have snatched victory.
"They turn up every day so attentive and they want to get better. For them to find a way to win – it probably wasn't exactly how I saw it happening - but they found a way to win in the end, which is great." - West Coast coach Daniel Pratt
"I thought it was the first time for four quarters we actually had a crack as good as that. We worked harder for longer. We just weren't able to take our chances. We needed to start somewhere, and we were hoping today was our place to get a start. It's funny, one point can define how you feel about yourself." – Gold Coast coach David Lake
The Eagles face one of the toughest tasks in the competition next Sunday when they play a second Derby for the season against Fremantle at Optus Stadium. The match starts at 1.40pm AWST. Gold Coast will be on the road for a fifth straight match when it travels to Adelaide to play the red-hot Crows at Norwood Oval on Saturday at 4.40pm ACDT.
WEST COAST 3.1 3.1 4.3 5.4 (34)
GOLD COAST 0.4 1.5 3.7 4.9 (33)
West Coast: Bowen, Cameron, Caulfield, G.Kelly, Orme
Gold Coast: Howarth, Parker, Perkins, Stanton
West Coast: Bowen, Swanson, G.Kelly, Collier, Lewis, Perera
Gold Coast: Ahrens, Stanton, Surman, Single, Bella, Drennan
West Coast: Bresland (hamstring), Cameron (leg)
Gold Coast: Perkins (knee)
West Coast: Aisling McCarthy (knee) replaced in the selected side by Kate Orme
Gold Coast: Leah Kaslar (ankle) replaced in the selected side by Georgia Bevan
Did you head to the footy over the weekend? Tell us your thoughts! Take the survey now