The match was watched by a Western Australian record crowd of 26,461, while gate receipts amounted to what 'The West Australian' claimed was a new Australian record figure of £2,376. It was a fine, sunny day, with a moderate breeze blowing almost directly across the ground. The playing surface was “a trifle holding” after recent heavy rain.
The opening quarter saw arguably the best football of the carnival, and thereafter “it was always fierce and brilliant and open”, with scores invariably sufficiently close to keep excitement near to fever pitch.
According to ‘The West Australian’, South Australia produced the better all round football, characterised by “magnificent half distance passing” and clever use of handball, but Western Australia won the match because of their insatiable determination coupled with quite astonishing accuracy in front of goal. “Eleven majors straight was uncanny kicking, and enough to shatter the morale of any opposing side.” ‘Bunny’ Campbell led the way in this respect, kicking truly every single time he marked within range.
South Australia were “nippy, fast and clever”, as well as relentless in their determination to win the ball. The Western Australians, particularly early on, sometimes seemed a yard slower, and may, to some extent, have still been feeling the effects of their sterling battle with the VFL on the previous Wednesday. Whatever the reason, their play was less fluent and eye-catching than that of the South Australians, but their determination and resolve were unquenchable. Especially late in the game, when South Australia was challenging ferociously, they refused to buckle, and “hurled repeated South Australian rushes back time and again”.
Tom Leahy, still sick and sore following South Australia’s clash with the VFL the previous Saturday, was unable to lead his side, and was replaced as skipper by Harold Oliver. For Western Australia , Clem Bahen in for Len Cinoris was the only change from the side that had triumphed over the Victorians.
Western Australia: Allen (East Perth), Boyd (West Perth), Campbell (South Fremantle), Ford (Subiaco), Bahen (Subiaco), Sheedy (West Perth), Steele (Subiaco), Winbridge (West Perth), Hoft (Perth), Truscott (East Fremantle, captain), Mudie (East Fremantle), Brentnall ((East Perth), Thomas (East Perth), Green (Subiaco), Gunnyon (South Fremantle), Hewby (Perth), Ion (East Fremantle), Outridge (Subiaco)
South Australia: Oliver (Port Adelaide, captain), Allen (South Adelaide), Hamilton (North Adelaide), Packham (Norwood), Daly (South Adelaide), Trescothick (North Adelaide), Vickers (South Adelaide), Scott (Norwood), Daviess (West Torrens), Peters (West Adelaide), Moriarty (South Adelaide), Beatty (Sturt), Bishop (West Adelaide), Cossy (West Torrens), Karney (West Torrens), McKee (South Adelaide), Hanley (Glenelg), Lewis (North Adelaide)
Any wind advantage resided with the South Australians in the opening term, but its significance was negligible.
From the opening bounce, Western Australia moved straight into attack, and a neat pass by ‘Nipper’ Truscott found Wally Gunnyon close to goal. The South Fremantle half forward made no mistake, and onlookers might have been forgiven for imagining it was going to be all too easy for the home side.
After Jack Bishop had missed an easy scoring chance for South Australia, the sandgropers ran the ball the length of ground culminating in an inch perfect Gunnyon pass to Campbell, and Western Australia’s second major score.
The huge crowd was being treated to some fast and flowing football; with the play moving swiftly from end to end, both down the middle, and, particularly from the South Australians, along both wings.
South Australia were typically foot-passing the ball between twenty-five and thirty yards, to good effect. One example of this was Johnny Karney to Harold Oliver to Bishop, with the West Adelaide rover bringing up the croweaters’ first full pointer.
The ruck duels were fierce and evenly contested, but at this stage of the game the West Australian rovers were taking the ball away more often, and they soon set up Campbell for another goal.
South Australia rallied with goals to Steve McKee, off the ground, and Clarrie Packham, from a clever snap, only for Campbell, Bahen and Campbell again to wrestle back the initiative for the home team. However, in a match which ebbed and flowed continually, South Australia gained brief control to hit back with goals to Packham and Oliver to reduce the quarter time margin to just 3 points. Quarter Time: Western Australia 6.0 (36); South Australia 5.3 (33)
The second quarter proved to be just as topsy-turvy as the first. South Australia’s elegant foot-passing, in addition to being effective, was often extremely attractive to watch, and on several occasions was acknowledged as such, with appreciative applause breaking out among the sporting home crowd. Western Australia were proving equally effective, however, albeit with longer, seemingly less calculated, kicks to position. They also appeared to be moving more swiftly this quarter, with some of the cobwebs of the Victorian game perhaps having been shrugged off. Most significantly of all, perhaps, the westerners continued to kick accurately for goal, adding majors this term by Campbell (2), Gunnyon and 'Barney' Sheedy, while for South Australia John Daly’s and McKee’s goals were accompanied by a succession of behinds. Half Time: Western Australia 10.0 (60); South Australia 7.7 (49)
“The Westerners were first away after massage” but it was South Australia who converted first, courtesy of Karney, to reduce the arrears to a single point. Shortly afterwards, however, Truscott eased West Australian nerves by adding his side’s 11th straight goal. Play for the remainder of the quarter was extremely fiercely contested. Late in the term, South Australia, playing with great intensity, lifted the tempo to new levels, but the home side refused to crumble. South Australia’s football was relentless and non-stop, players almost invariably electing to play on, and keep the ball moving, at all costs. When Oliver converted shortly before the final break all the momentum appeared to be with the visitors, but the sandgropers remained narrowly in front on the scoreboard. Three Quarter Time: Western Australia 11.3 (69); South Australia 9.8 (62)
Western Australia appeared tired early in the last quarter, and South Australia’s first attack seemed almost too easy. Thankfully for the home supporters, however, it culminated in a poster. The westerners then lifted the intensity themselves, and a mark and goal to Wally Steele (ironically a former South Australian) increased the margin to 12 points. South Australia responded strongly, and with Dan Moriarty, Jack Hamilton and Wally Allen to the fore, they surged forward repeatedly, but Western Australia’s half back line of Harold Boyd, Arthur Green and Reg Brentnall proved as defiant and impenetrable as in the closing moments of the VFL game. For all their territorial dominance, all the South Australians could manage were 2 behinds, and so Western Australia hung on to win a famous victory by 10 points. Final Score: Western Australia 12.3 (75); South Australia 9.11 (65)
‘The West Australian’ was generous in its praise of the South Australians, suggesting that they scarcely deserved to lose, but adding that, at the end of the day, it is the points on the board that count – or, to put it another way, ‘bad kicking is bad football’.
“Looking through the individual performances of the game one must give Moriarty the pride of place. Moriarty was easily the champion footballer of the carnival and proved himself at half back a rare football genius. Against Victoria he beat the mighty Clover. On Saturday last he never made a mistake all day. He marked superbly, used fine judgement, came out of the thickest welter always with the ball and greatest of all cleared away with long driving and well-directed kicks.” Other fine players included Allen, Hamilton, Karney, Oliver, 'Wat' Scott and Edwin Daviess.
For Western Australia – Boyd “by virtue of his knack of coming to light when matters press”, “good both in the air and on the ground”; plus Brentnall, Ray Mudie, Green, Fred Winbridge and Norman Ford – and not forgetting Campbell, whose 11 goals in 2 matches made him the carnival’s champion goalsneak.
 "The West Australian", 15/8/21
“Western Australia won the football championship of Australia on Saturday last and indisputably, too, as the only unbeaten side of the 1921 Carnival. They stepped onto Perth Oval full of confidence, after their glorious defeat of Victoria last Wednesday, and beat South Australia in a game chock full of good football and swaying fortune by 10 points.”
Carnival Clincher - carnival match, Saturday 13th August 1921: Western Australia versus South Australia at Perth Oval
Dan Moriarty (South Adelaide and SA)
Wally Steele (Subiaco and WA)
Vic Peters (West Adelaide and SA)
Wally Gunnyon (South Fremantle and WA)
Clem Bahen (Subiaco and WA)