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Magpie mids restore mojo, momentum in 'critically important' win

Highlights: West Coast v Collingwood The Eagles and Magpies clash in round 17

THE SCENES in Collingwood's coaches box as the final siren sounded said it all. 

Backs were slapped, high fives thrown around like confetti and a celebratory hug between Nathan Buckley and close mate Brenton Sanderson showed just how big that one-point win was.

Some games mean more than others, and after losing four on the trot to West Coast the visitors had to find a way past their nemesis to keep their season from slipping towards crisis mode.

The Magpies have made a habit of performing on the road under pressure and Friday night's triumph with their backs to the wall will go down as one of their best in recent memory.

"To get the win tonight was critically important for the momentum of our season," a chuffed Buckley said post-match.

PIES SURPRISE Full match coverage and stats

After being hunted most of the season and losing three of their past five, the Pies became the hunter and turned the tables on the Eagles at their Optus Stadium fortress.

Hanging tough all game – and without key backman Darcy Moore from the opening quarter - Collingwood stayed within striking distance and trailed by only 16 points at the final change.

 

It had been a battle that ebbed and flowed, and the Eagles seemingly had just too much firepower when given the space and time to get their electric ball movement going.

They booted 10 goals in the opening half and threatened to blow the game apart when Elliot Yeo ran into an open goal during the third term to establish an 18-point lead.

But the longer the match wore on, the more Collingwood dragged the game into a ferocious contest in tight, and when the four points were on the line it was their vaunted midfield that stood up. 

In a huge last quarter, the Pies thrashed West Coast around the ball (+22 contested possession), dominated field position (+15 inside 50s) and gathered 42 more disposals, while also laying 30 of their 63 tackles.

WATCH The thrilling last two minutes

Collingwood laid siege to West Coast's defence, kicking 2.6 to one behind to snatch an epic victory.

All Australian ruckman Brodie Grundy took control, winning 13 hitouts for the term and igniting the engine room alongside Adam Treloar (13 possessions, eight contested), skipper Scott Pendlebury (11 disposals) and Steele Sidebottom (nine).

"I thought their mids as a collective in the last just won the critical contests," Eagles coach Adam Simpson lamented.

"You look at the contested ball discrepancy, sometimes that doesn't tell a true picture, but tonight I thought the real important players it could have gone either way and the ball bounces around, we didn't win any of those and we normally win our fair share."

Credit should go to Buckley and his brains trust too, though.

Identifying Eagles skipper Shannon Hurn (17 disposals) as a danger man and clamping down with Chris Mayne stifled the home side's ball movement.

Mason Cox (three goals, six marks) clearly had his focus narrowed to competing after a horror performance against Hawthorn, and his teammates were smart, blocking Tom Barrass at every turn. 

Brody Mihocek (four goals) kept Jeremy McGovern guessing with his clever movement, and the Pies limited the Eagles' defensive twin towers' impact on the game by lowering their eyes going inside 50.

Collingwood had ranked 17th for metres gained per kick this season, averaging only 24m, but went faster and more direct against the Eagles to great effect. 

"We have lost recent games against West Coast, you can’t expect to do the same thing and expect a different result. That’s madness," Buckley said.

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Back in second spot on the ladder, the Magpie Army can start looking forward to looming clashes with Greater Western Sydney and Richmond with renewed optimism.

There is also a strong chance a date with West Coast awaits again this September, potentially a sixth clash in little more than 12 months.

Now Collingwood knows that, even undermanned, it has what it takes to knock over the near full-strength reigning premiers.

"We did OK in the early stages of the game, but as the game wore on, we were able to find our mojo and really enforce ourselves in a manner we haven’t been able to against West Coast as games have progressed in the last 18 months," Buckley said.

"So that was encouraging."

The views in this article are those of the author and not necessarily those of the AFL or its clubs