Hawks crowing with finals dream alive
Adelaide will have more than 80,000 Hawthorn members in its corner on Sunday after the Hawks conjured an against-the-odds victory over West Coast tonight.
The Hawks secured a 38-point boilover which could have catastrophic consequences for West Coast's premiership defence but has gifted Collingwood a top-four finish.
The Magpies can finish no lower than fourth after a four-goal haul from Tim O'Brien helped Hawthorn clinch a 16.9 (105) to 9.13 (67) win at Optus Stadium.
"To come over here, against the Eagles, on their home deck … and have to win to play finals, full credit to the boys. It was unbelievable," forward Luke Bruest said on Channel 7.
Hawthorn was last night eighth on the ladder, a position which seemed improbable after a Round 20 loss to North Melbourne left Alastair Clarkson's side two games outside the top eight with three matches remaining.
The Hawks have toppled GWS Giants, Gold Coast and West Coast in consecutive weeks to dream of a possible elimination final against either Richmond or the Eagles.
Should the Tigers defeat Brisbane Lions and Adelaide wins against Western Bulldogs by less than 16 goals, Hawthorn would head west again to meet West Coast in week one of finals.
Chad Wingard was instrumental with 28 disposals, while Jaeger O'Meara (27 possessions) and Ricky Henderson (25) shone in Isaac Smith's 200th game.
"I can't say I have ever gone for the Crows," Wingard said.
West Coast overcame a fast start from Hawthorn to lead by six points at quarter-time, but the visitors arrested momentum during the second term to take a 16-point advantage to the main break.
The Hawks held the Eagles at bay throughout the second half to record their 11th win of the campaign and keep their finals dream alive for at least another day.
Collingwood remains third ahead of Richmond's clash with Brisbane Lions and appears certain to meet Geelong in a qualifying final.
Western Bulldogs are 3.1 per cent behind Hawthorn but will jump to seventh and book an elimination final against GWS with victory against the Crows.
West Coast's regular season will end on the couch in front of the TV praying for some divine intervention, after Saturday night's shock collapse to Hawthorn tipped the Eagles out of the top four.
The shell-shocked Eagles need Brisbane to upset Richmond at the MCG to get the double chance, after being rolled by an inspired Hawks outfit.
Hawthorn's stunning 38-point win, 16.9 (105) to 9.13 (67), lifted them to eighth and they are well-placed to make the finals if the Western Bulldogs lose.
The strangely out of sorts Eagles scored freely in a couple of small patches of dominance, but were on the back foot for most of the night.
Hawthorn's total was the highest score West Coast has conceded at home this season as the Eagles had their intercept game and controlled ball movement taken away from them.
Andrew Gaff worked hard and Willie Rioli was a regular source of inspiration, but far too many Eagles were well below their best with the season on the line as the Hawks boasted match winners across the ground.
Optimistic West Coast fans might have had their phones set to calculator mode before the match in the hope the Eagles could both win and gain enough percentage to thrust themselves into the top-two picture.
After the Hawks kicked the first three goals, it was clear this was a salvage mission.
Not just to come from behind and pull this game from the fire, but salvage a whole season that was teetering on the brink of a shock fifth-place finish and horror pathway back to the grand final.
Trailing by 20 points and with it all on the line, the Eagles found their impetus out of the guts despite star ruckman Nic Naitanui watching on from the coaches' box as he prepares to return in the first final.
A mark and conversion from veteran Josh Kennedy 24 minutes into the opening stanza was West Coast's first major and it sparked a goal rush that turned the match on its head.
By the time Rioli, whose early tackling pressure was also a factor in turning the tide, snapped truly at the 28-minute mark, the Eagles had kicked four goals in five minutes and taken the lead.
The home side stayed in control to start the second but were left to rue set shot misses from Jack Redden and Dom Sheed, both set up by some smart delivery from Rioli, that could have put a space in the game.
Defender Tom Barrass had a nightmare moment at the other end, spilling a simply uncontested mark to allow Luke Breust to pounce.
Kennedy's second was a steadier for the Eagles, but it proved their only goal for the term as the Hawks kicked 5.3 to 1.5 to take a 16-point advantage and all the momentum to the major break.
It was a paltry return for West Coast, who had won the clearances 8-3 for the quarter and generated plenty of supply.
Jeremy McGovern and Barrass both struggled to assert themselves sin the air as the clinical Hawks got the job done in attack.
The Eagles came again with two quick goals to start the third, with Jack Darling snapping his second from close range to take his season tally to 54 goals. It is a career-high return for the key forward, underlining his claims for a maiden All-Australian guernsey.
The Hawks hit back and when James Sicily landed a bomb from 55m late in the third term, they had kicked three goals in a row to restore the 20-point lead they first established early in the game.
Tim O'Brien got his third and fourth goals early in the final term as the visitors made it six in a row bracketing three-quarter time.
The margin was beyond West Coast when his fourth extended the lead to 39 points and some of the blue and goal faithful had seen enough as they began trickling towards the train station.
Unless Brisbane can provide the Eagles with a top-four lifeline today, those fans will be back to Optus Stadium in a fortnight for a home final. Just not the sort of week one home final they were hoping for.
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