With two minutes on the clock, Jeremy McGovern took an intercept mark to propel West Coast forward just like in the great grand final between these two.
The ball found Jack Darling, who wasn’t dropping anything with a minute remaining this time around.
The play got the Eagles to within a point, but they wouldn’t get any closer on a night Collingwood recorded a famous victory in the latest absorbing chapter of the epic finals rivalry between the clubs.
Brody Mihocek stepped into Dom Sheed’s shoes to play the hero in the Magpies’ riveting 12.4 (76) to 11.9 (75) elimination final victory at Optus Stadium.
Mihocek kicked two last-quarter goals to finish with three, before dropping into defence as a spare man to mop up the pressure in the dying stages.
On another night, Andrew Gaff’s late smother or Liam Ryan’s brilliant pass might have been dwelled on. But now those moments, like West Coast’s 2020 season, are history.
The Eagles were down by 10 points at the final change, the same deficit they came back from in the qualifying final at the same venue two years ago, but they had the lead by the five-minute mark of the last quarter.
They were riding a wave of crowd emotion and the Magpies needed something special. Mihocek and Jordan De Goey obliged.
West Coast were playing catch-up from the outset after American Mason Cox’s extraordinary opening.
After two weeks to prepare, it took just 16 minutes for Adam Simpson’s defensive plans to unravel after Cox tore apart a quarter in a final for the second time in his career.
After monstering Tom Barrass for three consecutive marks and three goals in less than five minutes, and just two minutes of actual playing time, Barrass was on his way to the interchange bench for some instruction and McGovern was standing in the goal square on Cox.
Barrass has had success on Cox previously but it was still a moment where you would have given the dropped Will Schofield – whose career is now over – a penny for his thoughts as the Eagles suddenly looked light on for tall options.
Barrass soon returned to resume duties on Cox but the damage was done as the Pies jumped 16 points clear at quarter time.
The Cox carnage came on the back of the Magpies’ early midfield control, with Tim Kelly (one disposal), Luke Shuey (one) and Dom Sheed (none) barely sighted in the opening term.
West Coast steadied the ship with four goals to two in the second stanza, as Nic Naitanui’s dominance of Brodie Grundy helped the Eagles to play the game in their forward half.
The home team kicked significant majors in both the first and last minute of the second term.
The first was the classic Naitanui to Kelly to Josh Kennedy formula. The last was produced by a monster contested grab from Jack Darling against three opponents before he kicked truly.
This was a big man’s game, with Darling and Kennedy having two apiece at the major break to answer Cox’s three in the first term.
Grundy was benched in his 150th game to begin the third term, with Darcy Cameron taking over in the ruck as the Pies held firm to ensure they would hold the lead at every change.
Ryan v Maynard II
Nathan Buckley tipped the ruck battle as the key sideshow, but with Naitanui running amok there all eyes were on a pair of smalls.
Ryan’s statement grand final shirtfront on Collingwood defender Brayden Maynard was credited as a turning point in the second quarter of the 2018 premiership win.
Last night in the second quarter Ryan had a repeat dose for his man, flooring him with a similar effort that left Maynard on the ground gasping for air.
The pair shared some terse words in the middle of a melee and not long after when Ryan took a finger-tipper at full stretch on the lead, he turned and showed Maynard the ball to the delight of the crowd.
REST IS BEST
There was plenty of talk about West Coast’s underdone stars and most of them played solidly despite the defeat.
Jamie Cripps was a strong performer after missing the last four games of the regular season.
Cripps marked the birth of son Reif with a third-quarter goal, while Jeremy McGovern was solid in defence on return from his hamstring injury before Mihocek took control late.
Jack Redden (thumb) was a diligent worker in the middle, while skipper Luke Shuey lifted with a big third quarter after having just four disposals in the first half.
Kennedy, who shook off an ankle complain to take his place, was a constant threat before finishing with 3.4.