K rock Football

Darling heroics key for Eagles

JACK Darling’s 10 minutes of magic was enough to save West Coast’s blushes in their 23-point win over Gold Coast at Optus Stadium on Saturday night.

Darling booted three goals during an inspired purple patch in the second quarter to help West Coast set up a 39-point halftime lead.

At that stage, West Coast appeared destined for a win in the vicinity of 80 points.

But Gold Coast defied the script in the second half, closing the margin to just 11 points with five remaining in the match.

Darling had gone missing since his second-quarter heroics, but popped up for a late goal to seal the 11.14 (80) to 8.9 (57) win in front of 47,497 relieved fans.

Calls were growing for Darling to be dropped following his scoreless displays in recent losses to Port Adelaide and Geelong.

But the 26-year-old’s four-goal display against Gold Coast will help silence those critics.

However, West Coast’s patchy display will raise further questions about where their premiership defence sits.

The Eagles were on the back foot for most of the second half, with their usually-silky players struggling as the ball became more slippery as the night wore on.

Darling endured a bizarre moment early in the second quarter when he ran away from the ball thinking a teammate would get it first.

A Gold Coast player pounced, with the ensuing foray forward ending with a goal.

The incident seemed to spark Darling to life, with the premiership forward taking a strong mark shortly later and converting the 50m set shot from a tricky angle.

His second goal came when he outmuscled Jarrod Witts in the ruck before snapping truly.

And he had his third when he scooped up the ball from a pack and unleashed an accurate snap.

West Coast’s error-riddled display in the third term allowed the Suns back into the match, and a 50m penalty also helped Gold Coast’s cause.

Eagles goalsneak Liam Ryan went to tackle Anthony Miles after he thought the umpire said ‘play on’.

The umpire had actually said ‘move it on’ to warn Miles that he was running out of time to take his kick.

The ensuing 50m penalty and goal reduced the margin to 28 points at the final change, and Gold Coast’s charge continued from there before Darling’s late goal killed off the fightback.

West Coast was dealt a late blow when ruckman Tom Hickey was ruled out with a hamstring injury.

© AAP 2019

WEST COAST 3.6 8.8 9.12 11.14 (80)

GOLD COAST 1.3 2.5 5.8 8.9 (57)

Goals: West Coast: J Darling 4 D Sheed 2 J Kennedy 2 E Yeo J Cripps L Ryan. Gold Coast: P Wright 2 W Powell 2 A Miles A Sexton J Bowes N Holman.

Official Crowd: 47,497 at Optus Stadium.