Buddy blitz locks Hawks on top

HAWTHORN        7.1    10.6    11.10    14.11 (95)
WEST COAST     1.3     4.4     5.7        10.10 (70)

It only took one quarter for Lance Franklin to have his influence, but it was one of his best, and it played a large role in ensuring Hawthorn’s vice on the minor premiership with a comfortable 25-point win over West Coast at the MCG.

Franklin kicked four goals in the first quarter to bring back the eerie feeling of sublime dominance of his 13-goal haul against North Melbourne earlier in the year, such was his ability to slot set shots from anywhere, and it left the Eagles’ defence, and Mitch Brown especially, rattled.

In fact, it looked like a last-minute burst for a Coleman Medal, which would have almost proved incredible had he not gone goalless in the next three quarters to leave him still behind the leaders.

And, in the process of securing top spot, it all but ended West Coast’s chances of a top-four spot and a double chance come finals, with a likely Collingwood win set to push them into fifth and an elimination final in Perth against North Melbourne or Fremantle – but for now, they sit fourth and with a Collingwood loss, comes a rematch between these two sides.

The Eagles wouldn’t mind that, and would be desperate to make up for what was in the end only three quarters of footy, and for the most part of those three, not the high standard they’ve set.

With Andrew Gaff tagged – he had 15 disposals for the match and a fair portion of those in the last term – they lacked the run and class which didn’t allow them to move the ball with typical structure and preparation through the midfield.

The Hawks, on the other hand, were moving the ball forward with more intelligence and coupled with some defensive errors, allowed Franklin to thrive.

They also allowed three goals to in-form forward Jack Gunston in three quarters, and while he wasn’t a large presence as a key forward or genuine marking target, his scoreboard impact held Hawthorn in good stead until an ankle niggle led to his a substitution.

The West Coast camp will all hope for a similar outcome for key forward Josh Kennedy who, midway through the last quarter, rolled his ankle underneath a contest and looked in pain. Capping off a dismal night for him – he kicked one behind – his form will be vital for the Eagles and West Coast will hope there is nothing seriously damaged.

The same can’t be said for Brent Guerra. The nuggetty defender is missing his 2008 premiership medallion after a mid-week robbery and if Hawthorn’s form continues, he may miss another.

Leaping for a spoil late in the game, the standard clutch at the upper hamstring was seen and if his frustration and hobble on and towards the bench was any sign, it may very well be a player down for finals.

But with Grant Birchall effective and in the thick of it as always in the back half, Sam Mitchell leading from the front with another 28 disposals and Brad Sewell’s contested work again not unnoticed, it was the all-round team performance that Alastair Clarkson will be praising.

West Coast will take a late surge away as something to note, but with admirable yet not successful or consistent performances against top sides this year at the MCG, they’ll need to string four quarters together of their best footy to push deep into September, and after tonight, it’s not out of the question.

Scott Selwood, with 35 disposals (2o contested) and eight clearances, was comfortably West Coast’s best.

VOTES
3 – 
Sam Mitchell (Hawthorn)
2 – Scott Selwood (West Coast)
1 – Brad Sewell (Hawthorn)

GOALS
Hawthorn: Franklin 4, Gunston 3, Breust, Burgoyne, Hale, Hodge, Puopolo, Rioli, Smith
West Coast: Darling 3, McGinnity 2, Schofield 2, Gaff, Hill, Waters

BEST 
Hawthorn: Mitchell, Sewell, Birchall, Roughead, Franklin, Suckling
West Coast: S.Selwood, Priddis, Waters, Darling, Masten, Embley

INJURIES 
Hawthorn: Gunston (ankle), Guerra (left hamstring)
West Coast: Kennedy (left foot)

SUBSTITUTES
Hawthorn: Cyril Rioli replaced Jack Gunston (knee) in the third quarter
West Coast: Jacob Brennan replaced Andrew Strijk in the third quarter
Reports: Nil

Umpires: Stevic, Nicholls, McInerney

Official crowd:
 50,023 at the MCG

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