The top dog took a while to find his bark but superstar Marcus Bontempelli put the Gold Coast to the sword in the second quarter to lift the Western Bulldogs to a hard-fought 11-point win at Metricon Stadium on Saturday.
While Bontempelli’s heroics have become par for the course, the three-goal return for Bulldogs young gun Jamarra Ugle-Hagan was also a coming-out party for the 2020 no. 1 draft pick in just his second senior game as the Dogs surged to the top of the AFL ladder.
Bontempelli had a quiet opening term with five touches along with one tackle, one clearance and two inside 50s as the Suns edged their way to a five-point lead.
But by halftime, he had 19 disposals to his name along with three tackles, four clearances and six inside 50s.
He simply put his team on his back and put the plucky Suns in their place with a one-man domination that underlined why he is well and truly in the hunt for the Brownlow Medal.
Bontempelli finished with 36 disposals, five tackles, nine clearances and seven inside 50s while Ugle-Hagan had three goals and five marks from eight touches.
With Bontempelli the driving force, the Bulldogs blew past the Gold Coast in the second term to claim an 11-point buffer at the main break and set up their 13th win of 2021.
Coming off impressive back-to-back wins over Richmond and GWS, the gutsy Suns were left to lament some silly mistakes and bad luck but they were ultimately beaten by a side that is a genuine flag fancy.
Touk Miller was outstanding again for the Suns with 38 touches, 17 contested possessions and eight clearances.
Four unanswered goals after quarter-time swung the momentum to the Dogs with Jamarra Ugle-Hagan, Jason Johannisen and Jack Macrae all hitting the scoreboard for the visitors who trailed by five points at the first change.
The Suns kicked the first three majors of the match with Nick Holman booting two goals. The Gold Coast lost veteran Brandon Ellis to a hamstring injury in the first quarter and he was replaced by the medical sub Rory Atkins.
The Gold Coast’s ball use and pressure dropped off in the second term when Bontempelli took charge of the contest. Goals to Ben Ainsworth and Alex Sexton stopped the rot and kept the Suns in the hunt.
The Gold Coast fought the good fight in the third and fourth quarters and stayed within striking distance of the Dogs who were ultimately a little too classy when it mattered most.
The Suns came into the game on the back of consecutive wins. (Photo by Russell Freeman/AFL Photos via Getty Images)Source:Getty Images
Bulldog’s big future
AFL icon Leigh Matthews has said that the most you can expect from young players is “glimpses”. And last year’s no. 1 draft pick Jamarra Ugle-Hagan provided an eye-catching peak into the future with the first goal of his AFL career. In just his second senior outing, Ugle-Hagan flew high to take a spectacular grab over Suns key defender Sam Collins and then converted with a laser-like drop punt from long range and a tight angle. His second and third goals came from equally impressive kicks.
The Suns can feel a little unlucky not be awarded a goal to Rory Atkins in the third term. The goal umpire said the ball was touched before the line but replays indicated that it was touched over the line. The officials stuck with the umpire’s call and the Bulldogs marched the Sherrin down the field with Cody Weightman kicking a goal in what was an 11-point swing in a close contest. It helped the visitors take a 16-point buffer into the last change.
Suns shining brighter
The Suns have come a long way since the embarrassing 62-point loss to the Bulldogs in Round 5 at Marvel Stadium. The Dogs raced to a 11.4 (70) to 1.3 (9) lead at halftime in that mismatch before the Gold Coast showed some fight with the four premiership points long gone. They came to play on Saturday and took it up to the Bulldogs for a vast majority of the contest, staying within an arm’s reach right up until the final siren.
There should be some sort of Royal Commission if Gold Coast midfielder Touk Miller is not selected in the All-Australian team for 2021. Miller had polled votes in the AFL Coaches Award in 10-straight games after 10-straight games of 30-plus disposals to share rare air with elite on-ballers Clayton Oliver and Marcus Bontempelli. Miller’s class, poise, toughness and incredible work rate was on show again against the Dogs.
Ugle-Hagan (R) kicked the first major of his AFL career on Saturday night. (Photo by Chris Hyde/AFL Photos/via Getty Images)Source:Getty Images
SUNS: 4.1 6.5 8.7 11.13 (79)
BULLDOGS: 3.2 8.4 11.5 14.6 (90)
SUNS: Holman 3, Ainsworth 3, Sexton 3, King 2
BULLDOGS: Ugle-Hagan 3, Mcrae 2, Johannisen 2, Weightman 2, McNeil, Daniel, English, Bruce, Naughton
Greg Davis’ best:
SUNS: Miller, Fiorini, Holman, Sharp, Ainsworth, Collins
BULLDOGS: Bontempelli, Smith, Daniel, Dale, Hunter, English, Macrae
SUNS: Ellis (hamstring)
PLAYER OF THE YEAR
Greg Davis’ votes:
3: Marcus Bontempelli (WB)
2: Bailey Smith (WB)
1: Touk Miller (GCS)
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