WEST Coast has won back-to-back games for the first time this season and steadied its campaign after an inconsistent start, beating Hawthorn by 38 points at the MCG on Sunday.
A must-win game if the Eagles want to keep touch with the top four, they did as they should against the 17th-placed Hawks and won 14.14 (98) to 8.12 (60).
The most injury-hit team in the AFL, the Eagles received outstanding performances from their senior players to win their first game on the road this season and draw level on points with fourth-placed Geelong (5-3).
After the first goalless opening quarter at the MCG in 50 years, the visitors made their move in a seven-goal second term, taking control of the centre square to build a 33-point lead late on the eve of half-time.
HAWKS v EAGLES Full match coverage and stats
They won the centre clearances 7-2 for the quarter and dominated in the air, doubling the Hawks’ marks (20-10) and heading into half-time with twice as many inside 50s (34-17).
When forward, West Coast overwhelmed Hawthorn with its depth of contributors, inclusion Brandon Ah Chee the standout forward with four goals in his first game since round two.
Jack Darling was outstanding in the air with nine marks (four contested) and 2.2, presenting all day and rattling a young Hawks backline that lost its structure at times.
It was the midfielders who set up the Eagles, however, with Andrew Gaff (38 disposals and eight inside 50s) and Tim Kelly (25 and eight) the standouts.
They fed on the brilliant stoppage service of All-Australian ruckman Nic Naitanui to give the team a 37-26 clearance advantage.
Coach Adam Simpson declared during the week it was not the winning that was important for West Coast but playing its brand and producing a four-quarter performance on the road.
He would have done so knowing well that the two go hand-in-hand for this team, and the Eagles won all four quarters for the second week running to notch an important win.
Hawthorn Brownlow medallist Tom Mitchell was prolific in the midfield with a game-high 41 disposals (17 contested) and six clearances, receiving solid support from James Worpel (27, six clearances and two goals).
The Hawks could not generate enough supply to compete in attack, however, losing the inside 50s (63-35).
Mitchell Lewis looked dangerous at times and finished with two goals, while Jarman Impey was efficient and damaging with his 32 disposals in a team otherwise let down by skill errors.
Defenders dominate in goalless opening
The stars of the first quarter were the stoppers on both sides, who succeeded in keeping their opponents goalless for the entire term. It was the first goalless first quarter at the MCG in 50 years and the first in full-length games since round four, 2012, when West Coast and Hawthorn kicked 12 behinds between them. At one end of the ground on Sunday Changkuoth Jiath had eight disposals and five marks for the quarter, while Brad Sheppard racked up 10 and four. The Eagles had double the inside 50s (16-8) but their usual efficiency in turning those entries into goals deserted them.
'TK' shines to cover injuries
The combination of Tim Kelly and Nic Naitanui was a highlight for the Eagles for the second week running. After racking up 42 disposals and 13 clearances last week against Fremantle, Kelly had 18 and a goal in the first half on Sunday. He combined brilliantly with Naitanui to kick his second-quarter goal, winning the centre clearance, pushing forward immediately and marking inside 50 to showcase his workrate and ability to get free of opposition attention. He was the most important Eagle in setting up the early lead.
Kennedy substituted as a "precaution"
The win looked likely to come at a cost for West Coast when champion Eagle Josh Kennedy finished the match with his right calf iced. The veteran declared immediately after the match, however, that he was taken out of the game only as a precaution. Kennedy has booted 17 goals this season and is a crucial player, particularly with Oscar Allen redeployed in defence at the moment to cover injuries. He battled a calf injury in the lead-up to round one this season and recently missed one match with an ankle issue.
HAWTHORN 0.3 3.6 5.10 14.14 (98)
WEST COAST 0.5 7.9 11.11 8.12 (60)
Hawthorn: Worpel 2, Lewis 2, Hanrahan 2, Impey, Howe
West Coast: Ah Chee 4, Darling 2, Petruccelle 2, Kelly, Jones, Kennedy, Langdon, Williams, Waterman
Hawthorn: Mitchell, Worpel, Impey, Hardwick, Scrimshaw
West Coast: Gaff, Kelly, Naitanui, Darling, Ah Chee, Sheed, Redden, Sheppard
Hawthorn: Jack Gunston (back spasms) replaced in selected side by Dylan Moore
West Coast: Kennedy (calf)
Hawthorn: Josh Morris (unused)
West Coast: Luke Foley (replaced Josh Kennedy)
Crowd: 15,277 at the MCG