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Lions run over depleted, valiant Eagles

An undermanned West Coast scrapped valiantly and Brisbane lost another tall forward but the Lions still did as expected in a 75-point AFL romp at the Gabba.

Daniel McStay’s nasty ankle roll in the first quarter soured the host’s 16.9 (105) to 4.6 (30) win on Saturday night as the Eagles fronted up despite mass absences due to injury and illness.

Sent to hospital for scans, McStay joined fellow tall targets Joe Daniher (shoulder) and Eric Hipwood on the injury list, although Hipwood could return from his ACL tear next week.

“It didn’t look great, we’ll just have to wait and see,” Brisbane coach Chris Fagan, who commended West Coast’s endeavour, said of McStay.

“It never rains but it pours; you’d rather have a spread across the team, not have two of your best tall forwards out.”

It was the Lions’ (7-1) smaller men who instead got to work, Charlie Cameron (four goals) continuing his fine form, Hugh McCluggage (four goals, 26 touches, 10 tackles, four score assists) filling his boots and Cam Rayner (two goals) also growing in confidence.

Lachie Neale (30 disposals, 10 clearances) controlled traffic again while offsider McCluggage was everywhere as his push for All-Australian honours stepped up a gear in the percentage-boosting win.

A behind while attempting to kick his fifth goal broke a run of 14-straight Cameron majors this season, while Darcy Fort’s record streak of 12 goals without a miss to begin his career was also capped with a minor score.

Rayner was unlucky not to add another to his haul, stepping off his mark to play on and snap a goal just as the halftime siren sounded to cancel out his effort.

That kept it a 29-point game at the main break, the COVID-19 ravaged Eagles (1-7) gutsy after a historic 107-point loss to Richmond last week.

There were eight further changes for the Gabba clash owing to injury and eight players in health and safety protocols, not to mention coach Adam Simpson who was also in isolation.

With just 20 AFL-listed players available it had some bookies offering a record 72.5-point Eagles head start and $17 odds for an unlikely win at the Lions’ fortress.

Top-up player and first-gamer Jake Florenca (19 disposals, seven tackles, four clearances) wasn’t spooked though with a match-high nine disposals, eight of them contested, in the first term alone.

The Eagles’ intensity remained in a scrappy second quarter, while Liam Ryan’s second and third goal in quick succession made it 49-21 seven minutes before the final break.

But Keidean Coleman kicked his first goal of the season and Rayner added another to snuff out any faint hopes of a comeback, before the Lions ran away with it in a seven-goal final term.

“They never stopped trying but as the game wore on we problem solved through it and gradually opened it up,” Fagan said.

Veteran Eagles defender Shannon Hurn was stoic for the visitors with 27 touches and nine rebounds, Jack Redden had 29 touches and Jamaine Jones (21 touches, seven tackles) fought hard.

“Clearly, you could see the group was up for the contest and the pressure,” stand-in coach Matthew Knights said.

“But the polish, once the ball got to the outside, was a stark difference between the teams.”

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