THERE is not much of Liam Ryan, but the small forward stepped up in a big way for West Coast on Tuesday night.
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The 2018 premiership forward underlined his importance to the Eagles' flag pursuit with a four-goal outing in his side's gritty 15-point win over Essendon.
With key forward Josh Kennedy missing after last week's concussion, West Coast needed a member of its multi-pronged forward line to step up.
It was Ryan who answered the call, with his equal career-best haul helping steer the Eagles to their crucial 9.6 (60) to 6.9 (45) win at the Gabba.
Although it wasn't the type of win that will instil a huge amount of confidence in West Coast's flag hopes away from Perth, the Eagles were able to break away early and keep the Bombers at arms' length from there on to jump back into the top four on the ladder.
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But the win could come at a cost, with captain Luke Shuey appearing to suffer a hamstring injury late in the game.
Andrew Gaff was excellent with 23 disposals and Brad Sheppard continued his terrific season with 20 touches, while Nic Naitanui had a big impact in the ruck as the Eagles got back on the board in Queensland.
Essendon itself had an injury concern, with young gun Andrew McGrath suffering an ankle injury in the second quarter and sitting out the rest of the game.
It will further sour a game when the Bombers had chances.
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They got back to within nine points in the third quarter and squandered some opportunities in what will be a costly defeat as they drop back down in the ladder logjam fighting for a top-eight position.
Nic Nat's centre square dominance
It was a dominant performance in the ruck battle from West Coast star Nic Naitanui, particularly at the centre bounces. Up against exciting youngster Sam Draper, the Eagles big man flexed his muscles with a commanding showing in the middle of the ground. Naitanui gathered three first-half centre clearances and his power in the engine room was vital for the Eagles.
McDonald-Tipungwuti upstages talls
Essendon started with a triple tall threat in attack as Joe Daniher, Cale Hooker and James Stewart began the game inside 50. West Coast had the key defenders to match them, with livewire Anthony McDonald-Tipungwuti proving to be the Bombers' best option on the night with a season-best four goals. Daniher was threatening throughout in his second game back from injury but inaccurate in front of goal, scoring 0.3.
Another slow start for the Bombers
The Bombers' start to the game was again costly. Sluggish first halves have put the Bombers on the back foot in recent clashes with Brisbane, Gold Coast, St Kilda, Richmond and Hawthorn, although they fought back to overcome the Hawks last week. But the Bombers again were left at the starting gates by the Eagles, who set up the game in the first quarter with four goals to one. Essendon hasn't won a first quarter this year since round two against Sydney.
WEST COAST 4.1 7.3 9.5 9.6 (60)
ESSENDON 1.4 4.5 5.8 6.9 (45)??
West Coast: Ryan 4, Darling 2, Allen, Cole, Williams
Essendon: McDonald-Tipungwuti 4, Heppell, Stewart
West Coast: Ryan, Gaff, Sheppard, Duggan, Barrass, Hurn
Essendon: Merrett, Shiel, McDonald-Tipungwuti, Langford, Ridley, Parish
West Coast: Shuey (hamstring)
Essendon: McGrath (left ankle)