The West

Eagles eye top four after Cats win
Eagles eye top four after Cats win

West Coast pounced at Patersons Stadium last night to keep their top-four ambitions alive by defeating a courageous Geelong crippled by the loss of their most potent weapon, Tom Hawkins.

The visitors led for the first three quarters and threatened to notch their second rousing win within a week despite the loss of Hawkins, who was carried from the ground with concussion late in the first quarter.

But the premiers ultimately ran out of gas in the final term, with the Eagles kicking seven of the final 11 goals to snatch a five-point win,16.6 (102) to 15.7 (97).

The brilliance of Dean Cox and Nic Naitanui in the ruck and attack has anchored West Coast in fifth spot and revived their premiership hopes.

West Coast's tall duo kicked five goals between them as the Eagles moved to just percentage adrift of fourth-placed Hawthorn, who play Port Adelaide tomorrow.

Geelong were left to lick their wounds, having almost pulled off the improbable victory, after veteran Paul Chapman (calf) was a late withdrawal from the selected side.

The result means Geelong's aim of finishing top four is a long shot, with St Kilda and Sydney still left in their searching run home.

Hawkins, a match winner against Hawthorn a week earlier, was in top touch when he flew for an attempted pack mark over Eagles Darren Glass, Eric Mackenzie and Shannon Hurn.

The key forward lost his balance coming down and landed sideways, with his head striking the ground.

He was lying virtually motionless for several minutes and shortly after being taken from the ground was substituted out of the match.

Hawkins was walking under his own volition by half-time, but will be in serious doubt for next Friday's clash against St Kilda at Etihad Stadium.

The latest head knock to a key forward will ensure the concussion issue remains front and centre at AFL headquarters for at least another week. Adelaide spearhead Kurt Tippett was yesterday ruled out for a third successive week as he continued to battle the after-effects of multiple concussions.

The return to form of Naitanui and Cox was a blessing after Geelong went in with mature-age recruit Orren Stephenson as their only specialist ruckman.

Cox dominated the hit-outs and had 23 disposals in a best-afield performance, while Naitanui was a constant marking threat around the ground.

Premiership wingman Andrew Embley emerged unscathed in his first AFL outing since round two in an added bonus for West Coast.

The Cats' loss could be compounded by scrutiny surrounding star Steve Johnson, who collected Adam Selwood high on a shoulder with a front-on bump late in the first quarter.

It was not too dissimilar to the bump that saw Fremantle defender Luke McPharlin suspended for one game after collecting West Coast forward Jack Darling in last Saturday's western derby.

It capped off a typically enigmatic night from Johnson. He was best on ground in the first half, but had two howlers with set shots on goal in the second and final quarters that failed to make the distance.

The West Australian

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