THE top four teams in the WAFL broke further away from the pack after Subiaco, Claremont, South Fremantle and West Perth all recorded Round 15 victories with East Perth keeping its slim finals hopes alive by also picking up four points.
Two of the top five teams did battle on Saturday as part of Round 15 in the 2021 Optus WAFL Premiership Season with South Fremantle staying in touch of top spot while keeping Swan Districts as the one vulnerable team in a finals position the chasing pack have their eyes on.
Four of the five Round 15 matches took place on Saturday afternoon starting with Subiaco earning a measure of revenge to retain top spot with a 12.6 (78) to 9.4 (58) victory against the West Coast Eagles at Leederville Oval.
It was then quite the enthralling contest at Joondalup's Provident Financial Oval with West Perth beating East Fremantle 12.18 (90) to 13.7 (85) on the back of Nathan Alexandre kicking the last goal of the game to be the match-winner for the Falcons.
Reigning premiers South Fremantle then flexed their muscles to stay just percentage out of top spot with an eight consecutive win against Swan Districts, winning 15.5 (95) to 9.5 (59) at Bassendean's Steel Blue Oval.
East Perth then kept its faint finals hopes alive with a third win in its past four matches, proving too strong for the struggling Perth 11.12 (78) to 10.9 (69) at Lathlain's Mineral Resources Park.
The final game of Round 15 took place on Sunday afternoon at Mandurah's David Grays Arena with Claremont having to fight hard to overcome Peel Thunder 11.9 (75) to 9.12 (66) to remain in second position and just percentage back from the league-leading Subiaco.
OPTUS WAFL PREMIERSHIP SEASON – ROUND 15
SUBIACO 12.6 (78) defeated WEST COAST EAGLES 9.4 (58)
Subiaco had to work hard but were able to earn a measure of revenge on the West Coast Eagles at Leederville Oval on Saturday to retain top spot on the WAFL ladder.
It was only five weeks ago when the Eagles recorded their first win of the season at the expense of the Lions so while this week's return clash was still top against bottom in terms of ladder positions, it was never going to be a walk in the park for Subiaco.
That's how it turned out but the Lions dominated the second and fourth quarters kicking 10 goals to one over that hour of play which was enough to set up their eventual 12.6 (78) to 9.4 (58) victory.
Brandon Matera played his best game of the season for Subiaco as the former AFL small forward from the Gold Coast Suns and Fremantle Dockers showed what he's still capable of with three goals from 20 possessions and nine marks.
Harry Marsh and Chad Harris also kicked two goals apiece for Subiaco with Harris also producing 24 disposals and nine marks.
Subiaco captain Leigh Kitchin continued his superb form with another 32 possessions, six marks, six tackles and five inside 50s while Greg Clark stood out once more with 30 disposals and 10 marks.
Kyle Stainsby finished with 22 touches for the Lions, Liam Hickmott 22, Marsh 18 and Wil Hickmott 17 while the back-line led by Drew Rohde, Angus Dewar, Aaron Heal and Jordan Lockyer was terrific again.
Jake Waterman had a tremendous outing up forward for the Eagles to try and earn his spot back in the AFL line-up with 29 possessions, 16 marks and four goals.
Brayden Ainsworth racked up 33 possessions for West Coast while Hamish Brayshaw was especially impressive with 30 disposals, six tackles and six inside-50 entries.
Jarrod Brander also gathered 29 possessions for the Eagles, Alex Witherden 27, Xavier O'Neill 26 and Seb Bentley 19.
Zane Sumich was outstanding down back for West Coast too in his battle with fellow former South Fremantle player Ben Sokol. Not only did he keep Sokol to six kicks and one goal, but also had 21 possessions and nine marks himself.
Subiaco had all the play in the opening 10 minutes and eventually that resulted in the game's first goal thanks to Brandon Matera.
Once West Coast got forward, though, they were able to grab their chances and Jake Waterman kicked a couple of goals by quarter-time with Nathan Vardy adding another and that saw the Eagles take a 12-point edge into the first break on the back of beating Subiaco at their last meeting.
Bailey Matera gave the Lions the ideal start to the second term when he kicked a goal and wingman Chad Harris did the same soon after to level up the scores at the 10-minute mark.
The Lions continued on with the momentum with further goals to Nick Martin, Harry Marsh and Josh Robbins before the Eagles were able to cut the half-time deficit to 12 points thanks to a goal to Harry Sinclair.
The terrific contest continued in the third quarter with Waterman adding a couple more goals for West Coast and despite a second for Brandon Matera for Subiaco, the Eagles pulled away when Luke Foley, Jordan Busher and Kieran Hug kicked truly to put them 11 points up at the final break.
The onus was back on Subiaco to respond and avoid a second loss to the bottom placed Eagles in a month and to drop from top spot.
The Lions were up to the task with five goals in the last quarter and it was fitting a third to Brandon Matera sealed the deal just before the siren and Subiaco would go on to win by 20 points.
WEST PERTH 12.18 (90) defeated EAST FREMANTLE 13.7 (85)
The thriller of the round took place at Provident Financial Oval and despite their improved showing, East Fremantle came up just short against West Perth who maintained their hot form with the last goal of the game.
East Fremantle came out on fire away from home desperate to return to the winner's list to keep themselves in the hunt for a top five spot. The Sharks kicked six goals to one in the first quarter and threw the challenge right back to West Perth.
It was East Fremantle who then responded to being down at three quarter-time by 28 points to come out and kick the opening five goals of the last term to hit the front in stunning fashion.
However, in the end West Perth snatched the win with a late goal to Nathan Alexandre as the Falcons prevailed 12.18 (90) to 13.7 (85) to make it five straight wins as the Sharks lost three in-a-row.
Tyler Keitel maintained his lead in the race for the Bernie Naylor Medal as the league's leading goalscorer with another four goals from 15 disposals and seven marks for Wet Perth. Keegan Knott also kicked another two goals.
West Perth captain Aaron Black was again brilliant in his 214th game producing another 38 possessions while partner-in-crime Shane Nelson racked up 28 disposals and six tackles for the Falcons.
Tom Boyes also had 22 possessions for West Perth, Tristan Hobley 21, Dean Munns 19, Mitch Peirce 19 and Matthew Lloyd 19 while Zac Guadagnin once again stood out in defence with another 21 possessions and a rare goal.
The ruck battle was a fascinating one and Ben Delaporte did well for West Perth with 20 disposals and 13 hit outs as he limited the influence of Luke Strnadica for East Fremantle who had 15 touches and 38 hit outs.
Lachlan Bailey stood tall in attack for East Fremantle without Harry Taylor or Hugh Dixon down there as a target and kicked four goals from six kicks and four marks.
Alex Montauban and Tom Monaghan also kicked two goals apiece for the Sharks.
Cam Eardley continued his strong season for East Fremantle with another 26 possessions while Blaine Boekhorst gathered 24 disposals, Jarrad Jansen 24, Kyle Baskerville 22, Ryan Lester-Smith 21 and Luke English 19.
East Fremantle needed to produce something special if it was to upset the on-fire West Perth and the Sharks started the game on fire with a six-goal to one opening quarter.
It began just two minutes into the contest with Cam Eardley getting forward to kick truly and then after surprise first goal scorer Zac Guadagnin got West Perth on the board, it was all East Fremantle.
Luke English, Max Murphy, Lachlan Bailey, Blaine Boekhorst and Tom Monaghan all added goals to see the Sharks 27 points up by quarter-time.
West Perth wasn’t the form team of the competition coming into the round for nothing, though, and responded with three goals to nil in the second term with only their six behinds stopping them from taking the lead off East Fremantle.
The Sharks still held to a seven-point advantage at half-time but it was the Falcons then had picked up the momentum and continued that throughout the third term.
Rudy Riddoch brought the Falcons back within a point before Mitch Peirce kicked them in front and then Tyler Keitel extended that to a 20-point lead with the next two majors.
By the time he added a third for the quarter, West Perth was up by 26 and appeared in control leading by 28 points at three quarter-time.
Any thoughts of East Fremantle turning up their toes wouldn’t happen with the Sharks only needing 18 minutes to turn that 28-point deficit into a narrow lead in the last term.
Tim Bockman got things started before two goals each also to Alex Montauban and Bailey suddenly saw East Fremantle take a three-pointed heading into time-on and with all the momentum.
That set the stage for the dramatic finish with Keegan Knott putting West Perth back in front, Bailey then regaining the lead for East Fremantle and then Knott missing a shot at the 29-minute mark to make it a one-point game.
But West Perth would get another opportunity and Nathan Alexandre made the most of it just before the siren to give West Perth the five-point win for the fifth consecutive victory.
SWAN DISTRICTS 9.5 (59) lost to SOUTH FREMANTLE 15.5 (95)
South Fremantle kept in touch of top spot and continued its impressive recent run against Swan Districts despite missing some key players in a 36-point win on Saturday.
South Fremantle and Swan Districts were meeting for the first time this season and at Steel Blue Oval for the first time since Round 1, 2019, and it was the Bulldogs who proved too strong in the battle of two teams locked inside the top five.
The Bulldogs kicked away with four quick goals in the second quarter and with Blake Schlensog and Mason Shaw on fire in attack, and debutant Jesse Motlop kicking a couple of goals, they put the game beyond doubt in the third quarter.
South Fremantle went on to record the 15.5 (95) to 9.5 (59) victory to make it eight in-a-row against Swan Districts and also three straight this season.
That sees the Bulldogs improve to a 9-3 record this season to remain just percentage out of top spot ahead of Sunday's top-of-the-table clash with Subiaco at Leederville Oval.
Swans remain in fifth position on the ladder as a result of the loss with a 7-5 record to remain three games clear of the sixth placed Peel Thunder after Round 15.
South Fremantle came into the game without captain Dylan Main and premiership players Ben Rioli and Brock Higgins while losing reigning fairest and best winner Zac Strom to a hand injury early, but it didn’t slow them down.
The Bulldogs forward-line worked a treat with Mason Shaw kicking five goals, Blake Schlensog and debutant Jesse Motlop two to go with 13 disposals, six marks and four tackles in an impressive first up performance.
Haiden Schloithe was a dominant presence in the midfield too for the Bulldogs with 33 possessions while Tom Blechynden also had 33 disposals, Jacob Dragovich 32, Nick Suban 28, Matthew Ward 21 and ruckman Hamish Free did well up against Corey Gault with 10 touches and 28 hit outs.
The Bulldogs back-line was terrific again led by Noah Strom while Chad Pearson finished with 24 possessions and eight marks, Toby McQuilkin 20 disposals and eight marks, and Jason Maskos 12 touches and five marks.
Lewis Jetta, Jiah Reidy and Brayden Noble all kicked two goals apiece for Swan Districts.
Sam Fisher battled hard in the midfield for Swan Districts with 27 possessions while Jesse Turner gathered 25 disposals, Lachlan Riley 22, Josh Cipro 21, Aidan Clarke 20, Matt Riggio 19 and Jackson Beck 19.
The Swans back-line was under siege most of the afternoon but Brandon Erceg stood up strongly and ended up with 21 possessions and seven marks.
A clever finish from midfielder Tom Blechynden gave South Fremantle the ideal start on their first visit to Bassendean in two and-a-half years.
Blake Schlensog then continued to enjoy his move forward to give South Fremantle the first two goals of the game but Swan Districts was able to pull one back through Jesse Palmer with a smart finish from the boundary just before quarter-time.
South Fremantle's tall forward-line then really began to pay dividends in the opening part of the second quarter. In the space of seven minutes, Jimmy Miller and Mason Shaw combined for three goals and suddenly the Bulldogs were on top by 25 points.
Haiden Schloithe stretched that to a 31-point edge soon after and while Swans did get one back with a terrific finish from Jiah Reidy on the 50m line, South Fremantle remained in control leading by 25 points at the half-time break
A second of the afternoon to Schlensog saw South Fremantle open up a 31-point edge to start the second half and while Swans responded courtesy of Matt Riggio, the Bulldogs were in no mood to take their foot off the gas.
Teenage excitement machine Jesse Motlop kicked his first goal on debut shortly after before Shaw added his third of the day, Schlensog his third and Motlop a second just before three quarter-time with the Bulldogs well on top to the tune of 43 points.
Shaw kicked his fourth and fifth goals, and Schlensog his fourth in the opening quarter to see South Fremantle open up a game high 49-point lead before Swan Districts finished the game with the final two goals courtesy of Lewis Jetta.
PERTH 10.9 (69) lost to EAST PERTH 11.12 (78)
Perth and East Perth locked horns at Mineral Resources Park trying to keep their season alive and in the end it was the Royals who set up the win in the first three quarters and held on to win by nine points.
East Perth finished the previous week with the only five goals of the last quarter against West Perth, and continued that momentum over the opening three quarters against Perth at Lathlain on Saturday.
The Royals led by 36 points early in the last quarter and it proved to be a match-winning advantage, but only just with the Demons kicking the last five goals of the contest.
However, East Perth did enough to hold on for the 11.12 (78) to 10.9 (69) win to have now won three of their past four matches while the Demons have lost five in-a-row to now be all but assured of not returning to finals for the second straight season.
Eddie Simpson bobbed up for two goals for East Perth but it was Angus Schumacher who delivered the best on ground performance made up of 33 possessions, eight marks, six inside 50s and two goals.
Rohan Kerr had a field day out on the wing for the Royals with 41 disposals and 10 marks while Angus Scott had 33 touches and five marks on the other wing with Jackson Ramsay finishing with 30 possessions inside along with 28 disposals and a goal to Aidan Lynch.
Christian Ameduri also had 21 possessions for East Perth, Kye Willcocks 19, Nathan Blee 17, Jack Cooley 17 and ruckman Scott Jones 16 to go with 54 hit outs and a goal.
Perth skipper Michael Sinclair went forward to try and provide a marking target and kicked two goals for the afternoon as did Jye Clark.
Matthew Taylor gathered 27 possessions for the Demons, Corey Byrne 24, Brady Grey 24, Austin Davis 21, Jack Avery 20, Mitch Browne 19 and ruckman Jordon Reid 19 along with 18 hit outs.
Both Perth and East Perth came into the game at Lathlain determined to win to keep their seasons alive and it was the Royals who started the better with the opening two goals to Nick Robertson and Matthew Young even if they were spread out over the opening 19 minutes.
Perth responded, though, with the next two goals from usual defender Clayton Giblett against his original club and then Kristian Cary to see scores all level by quarter-time.
The Demons kept the momentum going into the second quarter to take the lead with a goal to Jye Clark but it was the turn of the Royals big men to make their impact.
Eddie Simpson kicked a couple of goals and then so did Scott Jones to see East Perth reclaim the lead, and then kick further ahead towards half-time when Shayne Hille and Angus Schumacher also kicked truly to see the visitors up 25 points at the major break.
East Perth pulled further away to start the second half with an early goal to Tom Edwards-Baldwin. The Royals maintained a 30-point lead by three quarter-time to remain in control thanks to a late third quarter goal from Jackson Ramsay.
The game looked well and truly over early in the fourth term when Aidan Lynch put East Perth 36 points on top, but the Demons weren’t quite done with yet.
Goals to Michael Sinclair, Mitch Browne, Clark, Corey Byrne and Matthew Rogers over the next 20 minutes saw the Demons pick up the momentum and give themselves a shot.
There was still time but they couldn’t manage those extra scores needed in the dying minutes and East Perth held on for the nine-point victory.
PEEL THUNDER 9.12 (66) lost to CLAREMONT 11.9 (75)
Peel Thunder and Claremont played out a second tight battle for the season and once again it was the Tigers just managing to prevail in an important result for both clubs.
The two teams were only separated by seven points back in Round 10 so it was no surprise that once again little separated the sides as they locked horns on Sunday at Mandurah's David Grays Arena.
Peel started strongly with four goals to two in the opening quarter before clinging to a two-point half-time lead before Claermont took over with three goals to one in the third term.
Claremont would then go on to score the 11.9 (75) to 9.12 (66) win to maintain second spot on the ladder and to be only percentage off top spot.
Only 16 points has separated the two teams in the two meetings but the difference from two Claremont wins to the opposite is stark.
Had Peel won the two games, the Tigers would be just clinging to a spot in the top five while the Thunder would be just one game out of a finals position with their strong percentage. However, as it stands Claremont are fighting for top spot and Peel is three games out of the five.
Tyron Smallwood made the most of his chances in attack for Claremont kicking three goals from five kicks with Jack Buller, Alex Manuel and Isaac Barton all kicking two goals apiece.
Lachlan Martinis was superb setting up play for Claremont off half-back with 34 possessions while Jye Bolton gathered 26 disposals, Bailey Rogers 25, Ben Edwards 24, Ben Elliott 16 and ruckman Oliver Eastland 16 with 21 hit outs.
Joel Western kicked three goals for Peel to go with 21 possessions and six marks while Lachlan Cullen booted three goals from six kicks and four marks.
Peel veteran Ben Hancock continued his tremendous season with 32 possessions while Connor Blakely gathered 31 disposals, Michael Randall 29, Jackson Merrett 28, Tyrone Thorne 27, Hayden Young 23, Taylin Duman 22 and Tobe Watson 20.
Only seven points separated the teams last time they met earlier this season and all signs pointed to a similarly tight affair on Sunday in Mandurah.
Peel managed the first goal of the game courtesy of Lachlan Cullen before Claremont got the response through Bailey Rogers.
Tyron Smallwood then gave the Tigers the lead before the Thunder ended the first quarter with the last three goals courtesy of Cullen, Joel Western and Stefan Giro to be up by 13 points at quarter-time.
A second goal to Western saw Peel extend its advantage to 20 points to start the second quarter but Claremont responded well with the last three goals of the half to Alex Manuel, Tyron Smallwood and Jack Buller but still the Thunder clung to a half-time edge.
By the 22-minute mark of the third term, Claremont had begun to pull away when Manuel added his second and the Tigers led by 16. But Peel kept in touch thanks to a goal to Sandy Brock just before three quarter-time.
That set up a tense final quarter which became even tighter when Peel veteran Ben Hancock kicked truly to bring his side within just three points.
Isaac Barton and Cullen then traded goals to keep the margin at three points but soon after goals for Claremont to Buller and Barton put them up by 15, and that proved enough to lock away the win even though Peel kept coming and cut the final margin to just the nine points after a terrific contest.