Oscar Allen and Jack Darling celebrate a goal for the Eagles. Picture: Getty Images
Oscar Allen and Jack Darling celebrate a goal for the Eagles. Picture: Getty Images

Eagles miss their chance to make a statement

West Coast wanted a statement, a performance that would stop the rot and lay a platform for a revival of their faltering premiership defence.

Instead, this was a game that mirrored the reigning premiers' season as a whole. Exciting in patches but ultimately unfulfilling.

The Eagles got the four points that were non-negotiable but the questions linger after they kicked just three goals in the second half to limp to a 23-point win against a spirited Gold Coast at Optus Stadium.

In what was a game of two distinct halves, a slick West Coast booted eight goals to two in the first half before falling apart after half-time when the diligent Suns were able to deny them their trademark kicking game.

The Suns had trimmed a 42-point deficit to just 11 points early in time-on of the last quarter thanks to five consecutive goals.

The unthinkable was on for the $10 outsiders until Jack Darling, who had earlier set the game alight with a purple patch in the second term, kicked his fourth to steady the ship.

Big games from star midfield trio Andrew Gaff, Elliot Yeo and Luke Shuey ultimately got the Eagles over the line.

Brad Sheppard and Shannon Hurn were on hand to chop off most of the Suns' early forays forward and at the other end the Eagles found a strong focal point in Josh Kennedy, who kicked his only two majors in the first term.

Sidekick Darling emerged from his slumber early in the second term when he kicked three goals in an inspired 10-minute burst.

Darling wasn't crashing packs like he was doing early last season when he managed a fine impersonation of Wayne Carey, but he created each goal in a different way.

His first major since the round four western derby arrived when he marked strongly 45m out and converted his set shot.

Jack Darling returned to form against the Suns. Picture: AAP Images
Jack Darling returned to form against the Suns. Picture: AAP Images

The next was a surprise as he out-foxed specialist ruckman Jarrod Witts at a boundary throw-in. Witts proved a handful early for Nathan Vardy but Darling had his measure when he won a battle of strength, taking the ball directly out of the ruck and snapping truly.

The third was more of a small forward's goal as he swooped on a crumb and finished.

What Adam Simpson would have loved about the second term demolition was that the consecutive goals to Darling and Liam Ryan in the middle of the quarter both came about through attacking ground balls hard.

They simply wanted the ball more than those around them and it's that hunger for the contest, or the hunt as Simpson calls it, that West Coast has been desperate to rediscover.

The Eagles had pushed their lead to 39 points by half-time, but their largely clinical second term wasn't enough to satisfy Simpson, who ditched his water bottle in frustration nearing the main break.

West Coast added five consecutive goals in the second stanza after Peter Wright's major two minutes in, with the Eagles breaking even in the clearance battle despite Witts' domination of Vardy, who was a late inclusion for Tom Hickey.

Suns youngster Jack Bowes continued a theme when the visitors again got the first goal of a quarter to start the third.

There would be no run of goals from the Eagles this time in a sloppy term where both teams made a sea of errors.

Controversy arrived when West Coast forward Liam Ryan misheard the umpire's "move it on" as "play on" and raced in to tackle Anthony Miles as he took a set shot.

Boos rung around the stadium as Miles took advantage of the 50m penalty to kick a close-range goal.

The Suns added three goals to one in an ugly third term, winning the territory battle and denying the Eagles their natural game as they held them to just 17 marks.