Fremantle survived a last-quarter scare to get over a plucky West Coast by just seven points and claim a fifth-straight derby win at Patersons Stadium today.
The Dockers made it six wins in a row in 2014 to maintain their place in the top four on the AFL ladder in the enthralling 13.10 (88) to 11.15 (81) victory.
Fremantle looked to have the game all but won when they take a four-goal lead into the final term, but with their finals hopes on the line, the Eagles responded with the first four goals of the last quarter to take the lead and put a scare through the Fremantle home crowd of 40,490.
But as they so often do, the Dockers responded to the challenge to earn the narrow win and extend their dominance of their cross-town rivals.
Stephen Hill was brilliant for the Dockers with 32 disposals, five inside 50s and three goals to earn the Ross Glendinning Medal for the best player on the ground.
Hayden Ballantyne continued his good form with another bag of three goals, while Eric Mackenzie restricted Matthew Pavlich to just one goal.
The loss was further soured for the Eagles, with key defender Mitch Brown going down with a suspected tear to his right ACL in the third quarter.
Brown had a reconstruction on his left knee in 2008 and had been enjoying his most consistent season since then under new coach Adam Simpson.
It leaves the Eagles vulnerable in defence after champion full-back Darren Glass retired mid-season.
The concern for Fremantle was whether they would be able to handle West Coast’s talls and so it proved in the opening minutes when a high ball coming in was marked strongly by youngster Jeremy McGovern, who converted the first goal in his derby debut.
The Eagles were showing they were up from the contest as Jack Darling athletically soccered another one out of the air from the goal square to give them two in a row.
But from there, the Dockers started to dig in making it goal for goal, including Colin Sylvia’s first major for the club, with a five-point margin in favour of the Eagles at the first break.
West Coast continued to press hard early in the second quarter but inaccuracy cost them with McGovern, Luke Shuey and Andrew Gaff all missing opportunities.
Fremantle then got it up the other end and made them pay with goals to Ballantyne and Hill to put them in front for the first time.
Mark LeCras responded with his second to steady the ship for the Eagles and then it was the Dockers’ turn to rue a missed opportunity when Danyle Pearce failed to kick a regulation goal on the run after a brilliant individual effort by Ballantyne.
The Eagles’ five-point advantage remained at the long break.
The Dockers started to make their move early in the third term, with Ballantyne twisting and spinning and snapping a goal which bounced through.
Brown, who had been marking the lively small forward, landed heavily on his right knee in the contest and was carted off the ground in what looked to be a season-ending injury.
That seemed to further impact the spirit of West Coast as last year’s grand finalists started to dominate play.
The ball lived in Fremantle’s forward half as they added a further four goals and kept the Eagles goalless to take a 24-point lead into the final quarter.
McGovern bobbed up again in the opening minute of the last, taking a big grab from the first centre clearance to make it just a three-goal deficit.
When Xavier Ellis steered a quick snap through the big sticks minutes later it was only a 10-point difference between the sides.
Goals to unlikely heroes Patrick McGinnity and Mark Hutchings then incredibly put the Eagles back in front.
But the Dockers showed their quality to answer with three goals in five minutes, including a brilliant dribbler from the boundary from Danyle Pearce, to take the wind out of West Coast’s sails.
The Eagles came again with the last two goals through Kennedy and Shuey, but it was too little, too late.
| GOALS - FREMANTLE: Ballantyne, Hill 3; Pavlich, Suban, Sylvia, Mayne, Neale, Fyfe, D Pearce. WEST COAST: LeCras, McGovern, Kennedy 2; Darling, Ellis, McGinnity, Hutchings, Shuey.|
BEST - FREMANTLE: Hill, Fyfe, Duffield, Sandilands, Barlow. WEST COAST: Mackenzie, LeCras, Priddis, Hurn, Shuey.