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Achilles heel brings Freo's 'great effort' undone yet again

Highlights: West Coast v Fremantle The Eagles and Fremantle go head to head in round four

FREMANTLE got a lot right for the Western Derby.

At the selection table, the match committee made risky but correct calls by going small.  

Leaving out fit-again ruckman Sean Darcy, coach Ross Lyon would have known the combination of Rory Lobb and pinch-hitter Matt Taberner would likely lose the hitouts. 

But without superstar Nat Fyfe, getting on top around clearances was always going to be an issue. 

FULL MATCH COVERAGE Eagles make it eight Derbies in a row

Fremantle was never going to rule the skies either against West Coast's outstanding bookends and an Eagles team that has revolutionised their game with clinical kick-mark footy.

By bringing in two speedy small forwards, Lachie Schultz and Sam Switkowski, the Dockers gave themselves a chance to test a lauded intercepting backline with pace and unpredictable ground-level football.  

Once the contest began, they sagged back and let West Coast share and spread the ball at will in the back half, in turn protecting their own defence with numbers set up behind the play.

And when the pill was in dispute, Fremantle scrapped like their lives depended on it.

Before the game, if you offered coach Ross Lyon one more scoring shot, a +14 lead in contested ball, almost parity with inside 50s (22-26) and told him the leading intercept marking player would be Adam Cerra (four) by half-time, he would have snapped your hand off. 

As Lyon is renowned for saying, the Dockers were "giving great effort" and pressured the Eagles into uncustomary errors.  

But, as is too often the case, missed opportunities forward of centre came back to haunt Freo.

Their Achilles heel, foot skills, cost them dearly.

They couldn't connect with their forwards inside 50 and shot themselves in the foot on the scoreboard, where they kicked 1.9 – two of those rushed – to the long break and went to the rooms down by four goals.  

It was enough for fans to tear their hair out.

Fremantle created more than enough opportunities, and finally started to take some in the third quarter.

It was no coincidence that one of the Dockers' best ball users, Bradley Hill, twice lowered his eyes and drilled passes onto Jesse Hogan and Cam McCarthy's chests for goals.  

 

Between those majors, David Mundy also found Schultz with a bullet, but from 35 metres out on a slight angle the mature-age draftee's kick slewed off the side of his boot for a costly behind.  

On the night, Matt Taberner was one of the Dockers' better performers, but booted 2.3 – including a shocking miss that hit the post from 15m in the opening term – with another two attempts that didn't trouble the scorers.

Then, just before three-quarter time, the Dockers had all the momentum when Reece Conca skewed an inboard pass in defensive 50 into Oscar Allen's outstretched arms. 

Allen went back and slotted the long-range major, giving West Coast just enough breathing space with a 17-point buffer at the last change.

"Silly, needless turnover," Fox Footy commentator Jason Dunstall groaned. "Gee, that's a costly mistake."

It was the story of Fremantle's frustrating night. 

WATCH Ross Lyon's full post-match media conference

"I thought we competed, not perfect, but quite well and got more composed with the ball," Lyon said post-match.

"We just rushed a bit early, a bit excited really. 

"I think once we played with more composure and the second half we fixed up our composure on entry (inside 50) as well we certainly challenged them more.

"They just made us pay early.

"We're all a bit frustrated."

At the final siren, Lyon's outfit had been smashed in marks (-54), hit-outs (-20) and clearances (-13), but dominated the contest (+22) and had two more scoring shots. 

The Dockers were brave and almost pulled off what some believed would have been the biggest Western Derby boilover in the 49-game history between these clubs. 

 

To their credit, the Eagles were good enough when it mattered, without ever looking totally in control.

Like good teams do, the reigning premiers found a way, and stretched their sequence to eight straight wins over their crosstown rivals in a 13-point nailbiter.

WATCH Adam Simpson's full post-match media conference

"Did we dodge a bullet? It was a grind, no doubt," relieved West Coast coach Adam Simpson said. 

"I think they're better than what some people think.

"We were accurate at the start and held them at bay for the rest of the night.

"We'll take the win, but we tip our hat to what Fremantle did tonight."