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Eagles survive Alice Springs scare against Dees

Highlights: Melbourne v West Coast The Demons and Eagles clash in round 18

AN ALL-IMPORTANT top-two finish for West Coast remains in grasp for the reigning premier, although its 13-point victory against Melbourne came after a massive scare.

The Eagles are equal with Brisbane on wins but sit third on the ladder on percentage.

It wasn't the most convincing display against a determined Demons outfit, but coach Adam Simpson would have been satisfied to come away from TIO Traeger Park in Alice Springs with victory in a rematch of last year's preliminary final, 14.7 (91) to 11.12 (78).

Josh Kennedy takes a huge mark in Alice Springs. Picture: AFL Photos

The Demons could have gone into the main break with a sizeable lead had they not fluffed numerous opportunities in front of goal. Harrison Petty was a key culprit, missing a couple of simple chances, although he kicked truly in the last quarter to bring the margin back to seven points with just over six minutes to play when momentum was with the Eagles.

Veteran Jordan Lewis was similarly wasteful. Sent to Jeremy McGovern to quell the star intercepting defender's impact, he started well, giving his side an option as a link man and showing his smarts with intelligent body work in marking contests.

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Consecutive misses in the opening term were costly though, and he had 1.3 after missing a snap from point blank range, but a late Elliot Yeo bump gave him a free kick that might have been lucky, and he kicked truly for the seven-point play.

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Forced to fight back, Melbourne slotted five straight goals and hit the lead early in the third term, thanks to Bayley Fritsch. The classy left-footer, who has spent time down back and on a wing throughout his career, was his side's most dangerous target in attack and helped drag his team back into the contest after falling behind by 32 points.

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There had been pressure on Eagles spearhead Josh Kennedy coming into the contest after a couple of goalless games, but he ensured the drought didn't last long with an excellent left-foot snap in the first quarter.

While he booted another, it was an otherwise quiet display from the dual Coleman medallist, finishing with just six disposals.

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His forward line partner, Jack Darling, showed why the Eagles extended his contract until the end of 2025. He clunked four contested marks for the day and finished well to bag four goals, including two in the last quarter.

Then there was Elliot Yeo, who had Angus Brayshaw for company at stoppages, but nailed one from long-range with the first score of the last quarter.

Unlike their opposition, West Coast was clinical with its scoring attempts. Willie Rioli would have been left sore after putting his goal through, colliding with a post but still managing to get the job done.

Midfield bull Jack Viney was ruled out at the main break with concussion in an incident that could see Tom Barrass in trouble with Match Review Officer Michael Christian.

That came after West Coast lost its skipper Shannon Hurn before the game with a calf complaint.

The game was alive until the final minutes, and although Dom Sheed spilled a late uncontested mark, he recovered and put it through to cap off what was an excellent day.

MEDICAL ROOM
Melbourne: Co-captain Jack Viney was concussed after a collision with Tom Barrass and didn't return to the field in the second half. Defender Steven May went down into the rooms during the third quarter with a tight hamstring but eventually returned. Harrison Petty looked ginger in the third quarter with a left foot complaint but he came back on.

West Coast: Spearhead Josh Kennedy looked to have hurt his right ankle late in the opening half when Josh Wagner came sliding in but ran it off. He then looked sore early in the third term after copping a rough landing and was down in the rooms. Jeremy McGovern looked to have suffered a lower left leg injury in the final quarter and hobbled off. In classic fashion, the backman's absence didn't last too long.

NEXT UP
West Coast will be back home next Saturday to take on North Melbourne, which has proven to be stiff opposition under Rhyce Shaw's reign as interim coach. Then that night, Melbourne faces St Kilda at Marvel Stadium.

MELBOURNE  1.5       7.8       10.10   11.12 (78)
WEST COAST   5.1       8.3       10.4     14.7 (91)

GOALS
Melbourne:
Fritsch 4, Lewis 2, C.Wagner 2, Viney, Oliver, Petty
West Coast: Darling 4, Kennedy 2, Petruccelle 2, Ryan, Waterman, Allen, Rioli, Yeo, Sheed

BEST 
Melbourne: Oliver, Fritsch, Harmes, Salem, Petracca, Lewis
West Coast: Darling, Sheed, Gaff, Yeo, Redden, Jetta

INJURIES
Melbourne:
Viney (concussion)
West Coast: Shannon Hurn (calf) replaced in selected side by Francis Watson 

Reports: Nil

Umpires: Donlon, Deboy, Glouftsis

Official crowd: 7164 at TIO Traeger Park