Lions overcome Eagles as Neale’s brilliant run continues
Brisbane slipped, slid then smashed West Coast with a third quarter blitz to claim a 30-point victory over the wobbly Eagles at the Gabba tonight.
Without skipper Dayne Zorko (Achilles) who withdrew from the Lions side pre-match, Brisbane took two quarters to get a grip on the extremely greasy conditions before blowing past the Eagles with five goals to two in the third term.
Hugh McCluggage (26 disposals, 12 contested possessions and eight inside 50s) was outstanding for Brisbane while Lachie Neale (32 disposals, two goals, 166 KFC SuperCoach points) was a more than valuable foil including the match-sealing major in the fourth quarter.
Jarrod Berry booted three goals as Brisbane marked the milestones for rock-solid defenders Grant Birchall (250 games) and Harris Andrews (100 games) with a win that was more impressive the longer the game went to provide a none-too-gentle reminder that 2019 was no fluke.
Eagles ruckman Nic Naitanui was magnificent for the visitors with 34 hit-outs and Andrew Gaff added 30 touches in his 200th game but it was another horror show for the West Coast who are now 0-2 in their hub life with mounting bumps and bruises adding injury to insult.
Brisbane roared into action after halftime after a wasteful opening half in front of 1965 spectators.
West Coast wilted against the Suns in the third term last weekend and it was Groundhog Day for the Eagles as the Lions burst out of the gates with goals to Berry, Charlie Cameron and Neale.
Cameron's left-foot snap from up against the boundary line was the highlight of the matchwinning surge which was built on a contested ball landslide.
Neale and McCluggage were especially damaging for the Lions as they owned the centre of the ground and provided stellar service to their forward line who broke the shackles.
Josh Kennedy found some very rare open spaces after being dominated by Andrews for his first goal of the night while Liam Ryan chipped in with a beautiful set shot but majors to Oscar McInerney and Daniel McStay allowed the Lions to reassert their authority and take a 17-point lead into the last break.
The first half gave extra weight to the argument from Collingwood president Eddie McGuire to change the leather Sherrin footballs to a more wet-weather friendly dimpled surface.
The Gabba is normally quite slippery for night games due to the heavy dew. After intermittent rain in Brisbane during the day, it made a cake of soap more reliable than a Sherrin.
The wayward Lions had more scoring shots than the Eagles in the first half but still trailed by four points at the main break.
West Coast got out to an 11-point buffer early in the second term after Mitch Robinson handed the ball to the Eagles after a dangerous kick across the face of goal deep inside Brisbane's defensive 50.
The visitors pounced and Liam Ryan kicked truly for West Coast only for Brisbane to bounce back quickly through Berry who fumbled, spun and snapped a banana kick.
And that was the last of the goals for the second quarter as the teams proceeded to slug it out in the difficult conditions.
Brisbane dominated the early proceedings in the first quarter but failed to cash in through set shots to Cam Rayner and Cameron.
The Eagles kicked the first goal of the match after 16 minutes through Jack Darling after he was on the end of a beautiful pass from Jamie Cripps.
Naitanui converted a set shot after winning a free kick in a ruck contest to help West Coast completely swing the momentum with six -straight inside 50 entries.
A long bomb from Lions defender Brandon Starcevich after the quarter-time siren was critical for the home side to keep them in touch with the Eagles.
Lions senior coach Chris Fagan said it was "incredibly pleasing" to win without captain Dayne Zorko and ruckman Stef Martin who should be available for selection next week.
"I thought it was a really good four quarter performance. West Coast came out to play tonight. We eventually wore them down with our persistence,'' he said.
"I thought our willingness to fight to win the contested ball and our willingness to put pressure on them all night long…was exceptional. We kept our work rate all night long and in the end we got rewarded.
"We felt that last week (against Fremantle) we had too many players that were below par. Half our group was and we were fortunate to escape with a win but tonight was a really good all-round team effort.''
West Coast senior coach Adam Simpson said the 2018 premiers could not blame the Gold Coast hub for the performance.
"It's just not good enough at the moment. It was a grind game and we didn't do it for long enough,'' he said,
"We are disappointed we didn't win. Effort and intent was there. We had to adjust a few things, to the conditions…but we got overawed in the midfield, beaten in the contest and the game got away from us halfway through the third.
"We haven't adapted well enough up here at the moment and that's what we've got to work through. We are all in this together and we'll keep fighting.
"We are trying to be pretty pragmatic with it. We are not feeling sorry for ourselves…it feels like it's been such a long season but it's technically Round 3. We haven't come back from the 10 weeks off as well as we would have liked.''
BRISBANE 1.2 2.6 7.9 10.14 (74)
WEST COAST 2.1 3.4 5.4 6.8 (44)
Brisbane: J.Berry 3, Neale 2, Starcevich, Cameron, McInerney, McStay, Bailey
West Coast: Ryan 3, Darling, Naitanui, Ryan, Kennedy,
Lions: McCluggage, Neale, J Berry, Andrews, McInerney, Lyons
Eagles: Naitanui, Gaff, Sheppard, Ryan, Kelly
Originally published as Lions overcome Eagles as Neale's brilliant run continues