West Coast firmed their place in the AFL’s top four on Saturday with a convincing 54-point win over Melbourne in Darwin.
They were at times inaccurate, but a last-quarter surge and 16.18 (114) to 9.6 (60) scoreline at TIO Stadium reinforced the Eagles as genuine premiership contenders.
Star forward Jack Darling kicked five goals in his best game since returning from foot stress fractures last month, while Jamie Cripps, Josh Kennedy and Luke Shuey each booted two.
Darling had kicked only two in each of his previous two appearances in 2015 – versus Essendon and last start against Richmond.
The triumph has kept them second on the ladder, equal on points with Sydney but in front on percentage.
The match didn’t start well for the Demons, who lost Angus Brayshaw in the fourth minute after knocking his head on a hip while making a tackle.
The young midfield warrior appeared to hurt his neck in the collision and did not return.
Despite his exit, Melbourne took the early lead with back-to-back goals to Dom Tyson and Chris Dawes.
But it was only short-lived, with the Eagles owning the back end of the first quarter with the last four goals and an 18-point lead.
West Coast dominated the stoppages and kept the ball in their forward 50 for most of the second term, but a late goal by the Demons kept the difference to just 15 points by the main break.
A cool-down swim at halftime appeared to refresh Paul Roos’ men, who laid on two quickfire majors from turnovers in the third term to reduce their deficit further.
The Eagles made just six tackles in the quarter, their lowest this season, and were shaky in front of goal – kicking 3.6 to 3.1 for a 20-point lead.
But exhaustion and inexperience prevented any chance of a comeback for the Demons.
West Coast booted six of the last seven goals, plus four behinds for the victory.
The Eagles face Adelaide at home next week, marking the Crows’ first match since coach Phil Walsh’s stabbing death.