West Coast forward Josh Kennedy booted seven goals as the Eagles overcame a frenetic comeback from Gold Coast to post a three-point win in Saturday’s AFL clash at Patersons Stadium.
The Eagles looked to have the game in the bag after racing out to a 39-point lead when Kennedy kicked his seventh goal early in the third quarter.
The margin was still 36 points early in the final quarter, but Gold Coast hit the lead with seven minutes remaining on the back of six unanswered goals.
With the game hanging by a thread, a deft tap from West Coast ruckman Nic Naitanui in a goal-square scramble set up Jeremy McGovern for what turned out to be the winning goal.
But the Eagles still had to endure a host of nervy moments in the dying minutes.
Harley Bennell’s long-range snap drifted in for a behind, while star Suns midfielder Gary Ablett was left cursing his luck when his checkside from the tightest of angles hit the post.
McGovern, playing just his third AFL game, took an excellent mark deep in defence in the dying moments to help West Coast secure the 15.13 (103) to 15.10 (100) win.
The result was a major blow to Gold Coast’s finals hopes, with the Suns (7-5) likely to slip to ninth by the end of the round, with games against Geelong, Hawthorn and Collingwood to come.
West Coast improved to 5-7, but still have a long way to go if they are to get back into finals calculations.
Gold Coast skipper Ablett overcame a quiet start to finish with 33 possessions and 11 clearances, while Tom Lynch and Charlie Dixon kicked three goals apiece.
Kennedy was the Eagles’ stand-in skipper following the mid-week retirement of Darren Glass, supported by McGovern who chipped in with three to follow on from his impressive display against Hawthorn last week.
Naitanui played his best match of the year, with the 100-game ruckman finishing with 22 possessions, 34 hitouts and six clearances.
The Eagles were dealt a major blow before the match when Luke Shuey was withdrawn due to an ankle injury.
His absence further depleted a side already missing tagger Scott Selwood (ankle), ruckman Dean Cox (rested) and Glass.
But that mattered little as Naitanui and Kennedy tore the game open in the first half.
Kennedy reaped the rewards of Naitanui’s dominance, with the former Blue booting five goals in the first half to give the home side a 21-point lead at the long break.
Ablett willed his team back into the contest with a scintillating second half as Gold Coast’s talented midfielders finally found their groove.
But McGovern became the unlikely hero when he managed to get on the end of Naitanui’s tap to kick a goal from close range.