Fremantle came away unconvincing winners against the Gold Coast Suns Saturday evening, scraping away with a 14.10.94-14.3.87 win. Despite missing a trio of stars, the Gold Coast put forth a gallant effort, controlling the first half before ultimately falling short in the final minutes.
It took a while for either side to get a breakthrough with the first part of the quarter being played between both 50 meter lines, but the Suns looked the more aggressive side.
It all came undone when Freo sorted out their transition game and kicked the first three goals, two created from some beautiful reads by Greg Broughton. When Matthew Pavlich fed a looping handball over his defender to a running Chris Mayne, the Dockers got their second simply by winning footraces into open spaces.
Fremantle looked to have turned the game upside down but the Suns used the remaining ten minutes to fire three back of their own, the best of which by Sam Iles who dribbled through an attempt from a goal line angle.
Wedged in the middle of the Suns comeback was the devastating injury to Nathan Bock who fractured his right leg in a marking contest. Karmichael Hunt was good in the quarter and set up the final Harley Bennell goal with a smooth clearance, helping the Gold Coast to their first first-quarter win of the year, with an 18-17 lead.
Not satisfied with that achievement, the Gold Coast won a second quarter with an absolutely dominant performance across the ground. Their kicking and decision making was up an entire level from previous weeks.
David Swallow added to the account just 19 seconds into the quarter with a goal on the run before both sides traded goals for a stretch. Josh Caddy and Sam Day bagged majors for the Suns while Ryan Crowley and Zac Dawson nailed a pair for the Dockers.
Roughly a goal behind, Luke Russell further the margin for the surging Suns and Hunt marked on the siren before going back and kicking another after the siren to give the home side a 50-33 advantage.
The third quarter saw Fremantle steal the momentum and lead from the Gold Coast with a much improve all round effort as the Suns were crippled by injuries.
Both sides traded goals once again to start the term. Mayne evaded a couple of defenders on goal line before kicking one through. Matthew Shaw kicked one, Dylan Roberton responded with a bomb from a set shot on 50 and Swallow added the fourth of the quarter with a goal to the Suns.
But Fremantle, finally waking up from their first half slumber, kicked three goals in three minutes to take the lead heading into the final quarter. Lachie Neale had the first when his kick benefited from a kind bounce to change direction and head into goal before Matthew De Boer kicked the next two, one a spearing soccer attempt when he outran a defender into a vacant goal square.
The Fremantle comeback set up a thrilling fourth period, one which would come down to the final minute.
Hayden Ballantyne gave up the Freo lead with a stupid push in the back, followed by 50 meters, which turned what would have been a difficult attempt for Jared Brennan into the easiest of goals. The result gave Gold Coast a one-point lead, a difference that would switch between both sides for the duration of the quarter.
The Dockers had their chances but both David Mundy and Tendai Mzungu missed certainties, saved only by an umpiring blue that gave De Boer his third. The umpire should have pinged ruckman Jonathon Griffin for holding when he grabbed the ball out of the throw in but instead called Brennan for incorrect disposal.
Harley Bennell kicked a beautiful roving goal which was followed by a Campbell Brown effort with eight minutes remaining.
Desperation time began in the final minutes, but Dockers captain Matthew Pavlich stood tall, roved a ball from a throw in and kicked what would be the deciding goal. Mayne was given a free for a high contest and a 50 m penalty, giving Freo seven points of space but another Bennell wonder cut the lead to just one. Mzungu soccered through a final goal with a second remaining to seal the deal.
Bennell was easily the best on ground despite being from the losing side, kicking three goals (two clutch fourth quarter efforts) and gathering 37 disposals. He was well supported by Hunt who has really come into his own in 2012. Hunt had 22 possessions, many of them contested and a number of clearances.
Missing stars from their leadership group, Campbell Brown really disappointed. He kicked a needed fourth quarter goal but continued his trend of giving away stupid frees and 50 meter penalties without having much of an impact in the forward line.
No player really stood out for Fremantle and their top possession getters were some of their role players. Clancee Pearce, Garrick Ibbotson and Ryan Crowley were their best gathering the ball.
Pavlich was frustrating. He was non-existent much of the game and only really exerted himself on the contest during a patch in the third. The late goal helped but in a game Fremantle should have easily won, their captain could have produced a lot more.