AFL 1 year ago

Cats Claw Back: Geelong Respond To Critics, Hand Bulldogs Another Loss

Western Bulldogs     4.3     4.3     10.8     12.9.81
Geelong                         3.0     8.5      9.5      16.8.104


Western Bulldogs: Smith 2, Redpath 2, Wallis 2, Dickson 2, T. Boyd 2, Webb, Cloke
Geelong: Taylor 5, Dangerfield 4, Menzel 2, Blicavs, Tuohy, Hawkins, J. Selwood, S. Selwood

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Western Bulldogs: Wallis, Daniel, Murphy, Jong, T. Boyd, Johannisen, Wood
Geelong: Dangerfield, Taylor, J. Selwood, Duncan, S. Selwood, Tuohy, Smith

The Western Bulldogs have lost their third game in a span of a month, defeated by an incredibly determined Geelong outfit by 23 points at Simonds Stadium on Friday night. It was a match that both sides needed to win to try and stay in touch with the competition leaders, but it was the Cats, who came off a week filled with intense scrutiny for their performance against Essendon, that responded the better of the two sides on the night.

But it was the Dogs however that got the better start, leading by nine points at quarter time, the first time they've led at the first break since round one, when they defeated Collingwood, but it was Patrick Dangerfield that opened the scoring with a brilliant kick from the boundary. Tory Dickson - playing his first game in 2017 - proved to be a welcome addition back into the side as he coolly slotted through the Dogs' first of the evening minutes later as both sides tried to gain the upper hand, but thanks to a pair of goals from Clay Smith, the Dogs took the lead at quarter-time.

But everyone knew by quarter time that the Cats meant business after their physicality was labelled as 'disgraceful' during the week, they only managed 13 tackles up to half time last week, they had 28 in the first quarter, setting the tone for a very tough night. The Cats were down to three men at quarter time as Nakia Cockatoo pulled a hamstring and didn't return after quarter time, but that didn't stop Geelong as they dominated proceedings in the second term, slotting five goals and not allowing the Bulldogs to score even a point. 

The reigning champs found themselves down at half-time, not an unfamiliar sight this season for the 'Sons of the West', but the stats say the Cats could've been up by more than just 26 points. They were harder around the footy - 46 contested possessions to 38 in the second term, dominated the inside 50 count in the second term 18-4 for 5.5 and had out-tackled the Bulldogs in the first half 71-58.

A Tom Hawkins goal got the margin out to a game-high 32 points, before the Bulldogs mounted the challenge everybody was waiting for, it was inevitable. It started with a uncharacteristic fumble from Sam Menegola, which led to Jack Redpath, who was virtually unsighted in the first half, kicking the Dogs' first goal since the 21st minute in the first quarter. This got the Bulldogs' comeback rolling as the put in another five unanswered goals to remarkably take a nine-point lead into what was set to be an epic fourth quarter.

In my eyes heir were three massive moments in the fourth quarter, which I believe cost the Dogs this match. The first happened just a minute in when Travis Cloke enhanced his filthy night in the office by giving away a 50 metre penalty to Geelong captain Joel Selwood, which brought him inside the Cats' attacking 50, and sure enough converted his shot on goal to bring them three points in the rear. This would prove to be a real momentum-shifter, as Geelong got the lead back moments later through Joel's younger brother Scott. 

The next moment was a free kick against Robert Murphy, who was run down by Tom Hawkins which the umpire deemed to be holding the ball. Admittedly, it was a great chase by the key forward as Murphy was streaking out of the Dogs' defensive 50, however the Bulldogs' captain got his boot to the ball - it was so clear and so obvious, it was the wrong decision, and it's not sour grapes either to all those who were thinking it.

Shortly after the free kick, key defender Marcus Adams inexplicably made a bonehead move by playing on when he was deep inside Geelong's attacking 50 and tried to take on Harry Taylor and was wrapped up in a game-changing tackle. From just outside the goal-square Taylor kicked his fourth goal and took the Cats out to a 10-point lead. Another goal by a Cat who had rarely seen it all night in Daniel Menzel saw the Cats up at 16 points and were running away with it.

The Dogs needed cool heads to come up and they found them through Dickson and Tom Boyd - both men coming up with clutch goals against a hostile Geelong crowd to put the Dogs back to within a kick. But there was no stopping Patrick Dangerfield and Harry Taylor on this night. The 2016 Brownlow Medallist found Menzel inside 50 and kicked his second of the term, before goals in the final minutes to both Taylor and Dangerfield ensured that Geelong would get another one on the Bulldogs - making it their 11th win on the trot, dating back to the 2009 Qualifying Final - eight years ago and eight wins in a row against the Dogs at Simonds Stadium - dating back over a decade ago.

Leading The Way

Making his first senior appearance since breaking his leg against St. Kilda back in round 18 last year, Mitch Wallis not only made a successful return from his broken leg on Friday night, he was amongst the Bulldogs' best players, with 26 disposals, 12 clearances, six tackles and two very crucial goals in the third quarter, whilst Caleb Daniel continues his hot form with another stunning game, recording a team-high 28 disposals to go along with five marks, four tackles and four inside 50s.

Bulldogs' captain Robert Murphy had a very good night with 25 disposals and five rebound 50s coming off half-back, Marcus Adams, despite his last-quarter blunder, held Geelong spearhead Tom Hawkins to only a solitary goal in an admirable match-up, whilst fellow defenders Jason Johannisen (24 disposals, seven marks, four inside 50s and three rebound 50s) and Easton Wood (20 disposals, seven marks and five rebound 50s) were very good when they were under immense pressure.

Tom Boyd enjoyed one of his best games since the Grand Final, recording 20 disposals, 33 hitouts in the ruck, five clearances, four marks, three tackles and two goals, while Lin Jong (24 disposals, six tackles and four inside 50s) and Luke Dahlhaus (23 disposals, nine tackles and four inside 50s) worked tirelessly in the midfield. However there were very unusually quiet games from Matthew Suckling (12 disposals, five tackles) and Lachie Hunter (13 disposals).

The Opposition

The Cats had a night to remember on Friday night as they celebrated the unveiling of the Charles Brownlow Stand, a newly refurbished grandstand that costed over $91 million. Geelong set a new club-record in tackles, less than a week after the club was crucified for such a poor tackling performance with 134 tackles on the night.

Geelong were led by the front by none other than Patrick Dangerfield, who returned to the form that got him the Brownlow Medal last year with a stunning effort that saw him record 36 disposals, 12 tackles, 10 clearances, six inside 50s and four goals in a best-on-ground performance. That's now three games in a row he has torched the Bulldogs, but he wasn't the only midfielder that ran rampant. Mitch Duncan had a night out with 31 disposals, 18 tackles, seven marks, six clearances and four inside 50s, Joel Selwood had 29 disposals, 11 clearances, eight tackles, six inside 50s and a goal and Scott Selwood had 17 disposals, 17 tackles and a goal.

Harry Taylor proved that he could be the force down forward that Geelong had hoped for at the start of the year. It took him nine rounds to be a match-winner as he booted five goals from 13 disposals and five marks. In Taylor's 213-game career, he has only kicked five goals or more twice leading up to tonight, one occasion came up against the Bulldogs four years ago, when the Dogs were still a developing basketcase under Brendan McCartney. Other Cats that starred include former Blue Zach Tuohy (28 disposals, seven inside 50s, four rebound 50s and a goal) and former Sun Zac Smith (25 disposals, 48 hitouts, 10 tackles, eight clearances and four inside 50s).

Next Week

Now sitting at 5-4 and just inside the top eight on percentage alone, the Western Bulldogs face a crucial game in the context of their premiership defence as they take on another side sitting on 5-4 in the St. Kilda Football Club at Etihad Stadium next Saturday, and with the Saints coming back from a 50-point drubbing from Sydney, this looks like it'll be another grueling contest.

There's no denying the fact that the Saints are a finals-calibre side, but there's still a bit of a gap between their best football and their worst football, and sitting just outside the top-eight, St. Kilda will see this game as a must-win in their own right. This has all the makings of another classic installment against an old foe, but this is a case of a 'Must-Win' game for the reigning premiers, competition for spots in the top eight has never been hotter.

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