West Coast’s star midfield duo of Daniel Kerr and Matt Priddis steered the AFL ladder leaders to a 10-point win over Richmond on Sunday after the Tigers had threatened to score a massive upset.
Jack Darling booted four goals and Josh Hill contributed three for the Eagles who scored four goals to Richmond’s two in the final term to win 16.11 (107) to 14.13 (97) in front of 28,464 fans at Etihad Stadium.
The Eagles had been only two points ahead at three-quarter time but held on in a tense final term in which Richmond had their chances to win, but finished with a fourth loss from five outings this season.
Trent Cotchin and Dustin Martin were influential for the Tigers, but shots at goal late in the match from Jack Riewoldt and Brett Deledio went wide and were symbolic of the gap that exists between the top sides and those still hoping to be.
Kerr described the final moments as nerve-wracking and Eagles coach John Worsfold said he had been expecting a close contest.
First-half injuries to defender Mitchell Brown (head knock, subbed off) and full-forward Josh Kennedy, who returned to the field after rolling an ankle, limited West Coast’s rotations in the second half.
Richmond led by five points 12 minutes into the last quarter but Priddis produced some creative handballs to set up goals for Chris Masten and Scott Selwood.
A huge mark on the wing by West Coast hard man Beau Waters with a minute left was followed by a goal to Darling which sealed the result.
Kerr’s courageous tackling and smothering complemented his 28-possession game and Worsfold said the 28-year-old former Brownlow runner-up was an inspiration to his younger team-mates.
“We made some really good decisions in there,” Worsfold said.
“Overall in that real crunch time, I thought we did pretty well.
“That’s leadership,” Worsfold said of Kerr’s efforts.
“It’s also showing what needs to happen at crunch time in games.”
The fitness of defender Eric Mackenzie (ear infection, late withdrawal), Brown and Kennedy will be assessed ahead of West Coast’s clash with North Melbourne next Sunday in Perth.
A high bump by Waters in the first term may come under scrutiny from the match review panel.
“That’s part of the game, unless shepherding is taken out of the game,” Worsfold said.
“I haven’t seen today’s incident. I trust that it’s a good fair shepherd and there’ll be nothing to answer.”
Port Adelaide host the Tigers next Sunday as Richmond coach Damien Hardwick reflects on a tough start to the season.
The Tigers are 1-4, having lost to both West Coast and defending premiers Geelong by 10 points in the past two rounds.
“I don’t think I’ve ever been as disappointed as I was today, just for the work rate the players put in, the courage that they showed,” Hardwick said.
“(It’s) really disappointing and a bitter pill to swallow.”