ENIGMATIC star Jack Darling stood tallest in West Coast's land of the giants forward line, spearheading a 30-point win against Adelaide at Optus Stadium on Sunday.
Darling was the gamebreaker in a brilliant five-goal second quarter before the rest of the Eagles' talls finished the job in the 16.10 (106) to 11.10 (76) win.
EAGLES v CROWS Full match coverage and stats
West Coast stretched the Crows with Darling, Josh Kennedy (three goals) and Oscar Allen (three) in attack, alongside 192cm goalkicker Jake Waterman (two) and ruck/forward Bailey Williams.
Between them, they kicked 13 of the Eagles' 16 goals, and made it three straight wins for the first time since round 13 last season, consolidating their spot in the top eight at 6-4.
Tall forwards aside, it wasn't a completely polished performance from the Eagles, who fell seven points behind the committed Crows in the second term before Darling took charge of the game.
The premiership forward took three straight contested grabs for his first three goals, before marking and making the strange decision to dribble his fourth between Brodie Smith's legs.
He then dropped an easy mark inside 50 but was able to turn and snap his fifth goal to open up a 29-point lead in the space of 21 minutes.
Adelaide persisted and closed the margin to 17 points in the third quarter, but Waterman and Kennedy stepped up before Jamie Cripps snapped a classy goal that left the Crows trailing by 35 points and with too much work to do.
Ruckman Nic Naitanui (31 hit-outs and four clearances) beat opponent Reilly O'Brien convincingly, while star Eagle Tim Kelly (31 disposals and 11 clearances) was the standout midfielder in the game.
The duo combined repeatedly in the middle as Kelly won a massive seven centre clearances, with Adelaide midfielder Rory Laird (35 disposals and 10 clearances) his main competition.
Laird didn't let up for the Crows, while Shane McAdam was recalled and impressed with three goals. Ben Keays (32 and six clearances) continued a consistent season.
It was the team's fifth straight loss after an impressive start to 2021, however, falling to 3-6 after winning three of their first four matches.
They did plenty right in the first half. They edged West Coast in contested ball (75-65), held their own in the clearances (15-16), and had more forward entries (26-24).
Adelaide won the final term, but didn't have the imposing forward presence of West Coast's talls, who ultimately proved the difference.
Eagles continue salvage mission
It was this time last year the Eagles were in the middle of an eight-game winning run as they sought to make up for early-season losses that ultimately cost them a top-four spot. They are in a similar position now, winning consistently but on a mission to undo the damage of a 97-point loss to Geelong that has set their percentage back significantly. On Sunday they lost the final term by five points, with the Crows proving difficult to play against and failing to give the Eagles the percentage boost they crave.
The Crows have an enigma of their own
Young forward Darcy Fogarty, who kicked five goals at Optus Stadium in 2019, looked set for another big game in Perth when he shot out of the blocks with six disposals (all contested) in the opening term, showing toughness, agility and great game sense. He drifted out of the match from there, however, with three disposals in the second term, missing two opportunities, and none in the third. He kept presenting and a final quarter goal was reward for a hard-working game that impressed his coach.
Naitanui gets it done around the ground
Despite his massive influence at stoppages, superstar ruckman Nic Naitanui has been criticised in recent weeks for his lack of impact in general play this season. On Sunday, he took four marks, including three contested grabs, in a strong performance. The four marks was his best return since round four, 2018, while his three contested grabs was his best since round 12 2016. Getting to more contested was the key, coach Adam Simpson said, but it was his usual centre square dominance that most stood out.
WEST COAST 2.5 9.6 14.7 16.10 (106)
ADELAIDE 2.3 4.7 8.8 11.10 (76)
West Coast: Darling 5, Allen 3, Kennedy 3, Waterman 2, Cripps, Jones, Petruccelle
Adelaide: McAdam 3, Berry 2, Thilthorpe 2, Fogarty, Laird, Rowe, Schoenberg
West Coast: Darling, Naitanui, Kelly, Kennedy, Redden, Cripps, Witherden, McGovern
Adelaide: Laird, Keays, McAdam, Schoenberg, Jones, Smith
West Coast: Nil
West Coast: Zac Langdon (Unused)
Adelaide: Andrew McPherson (unused)
Crowd: 43,427 at Optus Stadium