AFL 1 year ago

Finals Bound: Dogs Punch Their Ticket To September By Overcoming Fiery Roos

Western Bulldogs   1.4     4.5 7.7      9.7.61
North Melbourne   2.2   
  2.4 4.5      7.5.47

Goals
Western Bulldogs: Dickson, Daniel, Bontempelli, Hrovat, Johannisen, Hunter, Cordy, Roughead, Stringer
North Melbourne: Brown, Harvey, Daw, Thomas, Wells, Ziebell, Goldstein

Alex Docherty's Best
Western Bulldogs: M.Boyd, Bontempelli, Dahlhaus, Morris, Johannisen, Wood, Roberts
North Melbourne: Macmillan, Goldstein, Wells, Cunnington, Gibson, Dumont

It was a huge win for the Western Bulldogs on Saturday night as they defeated North Melbourne to not just remain in the hunt for a top-four berth, but have confirmed their place in the 2016 AFL Finals Series. As it stands, the Dogs sit a game behind 4th placed Greater Western Sydney, following the Giants' win over the Gold Coast on Saturday.

In a game that featured plenty of spite, most of it surrounding Marcus Bontempelli after his comments regarding Lindsay Thomas post-game in their previous meeting back in round six this year. Both sides provided big hits, strong tackles and terrific pressure on both ends of the ground, but it was the Dogs who came out on top, despite North Melbourne beating the Dogs in disposals, clearances and contested possessions.

North started strong, kicking the first two goals of the night through Ben Brown and Brent Harvey, and just as Brown was looking like a really dangerous threat, he came off with what looked like a knee injury and did not return to the field, and when this happened, the Dogs took charge of the low-scoring scrap, piling on three goals to nil in the second quarter to lead by 11 points at half time. From there, the Dogs never gave up the lead, despite constant charges from the Roos at various points in the game.

That said, the Dogs escaped without any major injuries, but might be sweating on Clay Smith, who came off with a concussion deep into the first quarter and didn't return to the match, although Luke Beveridge said in the post-match press conference that he'll be a strong chance to return to the line-up next Friday night.

Leading The Way

It was clear that Marcus Bontempelli was going to be targeted by North's players all throughout the night, but the way he responded to it was brilliant. He didn't need to retaliate and get fazed by the whole ordeal. What made his game even better was that he had no Mitch Wallis, no Jack Macrae and no Tom Liberatore there helping him out. He finished the game with 19 disposals, nine tackles, eight marks and a goal in a very fine well-rounded game.

Supporting the Bont in the midfield were Luke Dahlhaus, who had a team-high 28 disposals and backed up a good performance last week with another solid showing. Jason Johannisen was superb with 22 disposals, eight inside 50s, six marks, four rebound 50s and a very nice goal on the run in the third quarter, Caleb Daniel was again brilliant and one would certainly think that he may have the AFL's rising star award sewn up, and whilst the young brigade of Josh Dunkley, Nathan Hrovat and Lukas Webb didn't have massive statistic games, I thought they were among the many Bulldogs that contributed.

Matthew Boyd was another one who had a very great game after missing last week's loss to Geelong with an achilles complaint. He finished the game with 22 disposals, six marks, six rebound 50s and four inside 50s, but he wasn't the only defender to star on the night. I reckon the entire defensive unit has to be applauded on an outstanding job in keeping the Roos to their lowest score of the season, eclipsing the 9.7.61 that North kicked ironically against the Dogs back in round six. 

Easton Wood had 20 disposals and 10 marks in the back half, Dale Morris was magnificent in thwarting a lot of North's scoring opportunities. Fletcher Roberts was fantastic in blanketing the influence of Drew Petrie, a man who has towelled the Doggies on more than one occasion, and I was really impressed with how Joel Hamling conducted himself for most of the night.

The Opposition

North Melbourne might've been struggling in recent months, but they showed up looking for a scrap last night, and certainly made the Dogs earn those four precious premiership points, but for North, this was a golden opportunity to get a win in 

I thought Jamie Macmillan's game in the defensive half was fantastic and was one of North's better players.  In what was his 100th game for North Melbourne, he had a game-high 30 disposals, along with eight marks and six rebound 50s. Todd Goldstein showed everyone that he's still one of the premier ruckmen in the competition, despite having a down year in comparison to last yNorthear, recording 35 hitouts, 19 disposals, five marks and a goal late in the game.

Other North players who played well included the veteran in Daniel Wells who had 26 disposals, six clearances, four inside 50s and a goal, Ben Cunnington who had 27 disposals, and Sam Gibson who had 28 disposals. I was also impressed with young Trent Dumont's game, he finished with 19 disposals, eight tackles and seven marks, Ryan Clarke's game was also impressive for what's only his fifth game of league footy, he ended the game on 17 disposals and six tackles after a strong start to the game.

There's one more person for North I thought I'd like to mention, because he had almost as big of a howler as our own Matt Suckling a fortnight ago, and that's Jed Anderson, the former Hawthorn player, he ended up missing a very easy set shot on goal, and to top it all off for him, he was placed on report for a high hit on the Bulldogs' Lin Jong in the second term in a contest that could see him rubbed out for a week or two.

Next Week

The Bulldogs face a six-day break before coming back to Etihad Stadium for their last home game of the home and away season - A Friday night game against the Collingwood Football Club, who haven't really improved on the last encounter, but don't let that fool you, as the Pies nearly took the points on that occasion, but make no mistake, it's another big game for the Doggies to keep their top four chances alive.

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