The Western Bulldogs’ Marcus Bontempelli-inspired win over West Coast at Optus Stadium on Sunday can’t be underestimated in terms of this AFL season.
Lose, and the Dogs’ hold on to second spot on the ladder was extremely wobbly.
Win, which they ended up doing in style, and they would have fallen back into a group of sides eyeing off the advantage that top-two spot brings with it.
The 13.20 (98) to 6.7 (43) win looked ugly at times. But the 50,000-odd crowd was banned by the WA Government only three hours before the first bounce, while the Dogs were in a bus on the way to the game.
That regular noise that gets the Eagles moving when need it, wasn’t there when they started to gain some momentum in the third term.
Life is now a lot harder for West Coast, who would have been just one win off second spot with a win. Not being in the top four has eluded them for the past couple of seasons and now looks a difficult task again.
The Dogs captain, Marcus Bontempelli, made sure his team overcame their sloppy start against the Eagles.
‘The Bont’ finished the day with three goals and a goal assist to go with his 29 disposals, seven tackles and 10 clearances.
Three goals in the final quarter from Aaron Naughton, sealed the result.
After celebrating a great win over Richmond at home, missing several key players, and having a bye to freshen up, the Eagles suffered their biggest ever loss at Optus Stadium since moving there in 2018.
The Dogs also kept them to their lowest score at the venue.
For the Dogs, it was their first win against West Coast at Optus Stadium and the first against the Eagles in Perth since the 2016 Elimination Final.
The Bulldogs went on to win the flag that season.
A shoulder injury to defender Ryan Gardner in the third quarter was the only concern for the Dogs.
The Eagles were forced to play their home game without a crowd. (Photo by Daniel Carson/AFL Photos via Getty Images)Source:Getty Images
Good kicking is good footy
The Bulldogs have trailed at quarter-time only once this season (in Round 11 loss to Melbourne) and led West Coast by 13 points at the first change.
But they should have had a matchwinning lead as early as that.
In the first term, they went into attack 17 times, compared to the Eagles’ eight and took six marks in goal kicking range.
They had 10 scoring shots to West Coast’s two, but led 2.8 to 1.1.
Josh Bruce and Bontempelli missed set shot chances they should have kicked. Bruce had 0.1 on the board, but he had two other shots from inside 50 that failed to score.
Dogs bring the bite
The Bulldogs did take the intensity to the game.
One week after a devastating after-the-siren loss to Geelong and having spent a week in quarantine in Perth, the Dogs hunted the ball from the first bounce.
They went into the quarter-time huddle with 18 more contested possessions than the Eagles, led by Bontempelli, Bailey Smith, Jack Macrae and Lachie Hunter.
They set up many of their early scoring shots from the 12 turnovers they forced in their front half.
And Bontempellii and Tom Liberatore ensured their side were controlling clearances.
Bonts class of 2021
At halftime, the Eagles top three possession winners were defenders – Brad Sheppard, Josh Rotham and Tom Barrass, who was struggling with a rib-injury sustained in the first term.
The first two quarters were played in wet conditions and Eagles ruckman Nic Naitanui was their highest midfield possession winners, with 12.
Not-so the Bulldogs, with Bailey Smith (17 touches), Bontempelli (16) and Macrae (15) all getting plenty of it.
Bontempelli also had two goals to his name; the sixth time this season he has been a multiple goal kicker in a game. He finished with 29 touches (17 of them contested), 10 clearances and three goals.
Tim Kelly and Luke Shuey were returning from injury lay-offs and Elliot Yeo was playing his fourth game since being sidelined for an extended period.
The usual fluent ball movement the Eagles show, especially at home, just wasn’t there.
EAGLES 1.2 2.4 5.6 6.7 43
BULLDOGS 2.8 4.12 7.15 13.20 98
ELBOROUGH’S BEST Eagles: Sheppard, Naitanui, Barrass, Rotham, Hurn. Bulldogs: Bontempelli, Smith, Macrae, Hunter, Liberatore, Naughton.
GOALS Eagles: Allen 2; Kennedy, Gaff, Cripps, Petruccelle. Bulldogs: Naughton 4; Bontempelli 3; Smith 2; McLean, Weightman, Macrae, Garcia.
INJURIES Eagles: Barrass (ribs). Bulldogs: Gardner (shoulder, replaced by Wallis).
UMPIRES Dalgleish, Whetton, Johanson.
VENUE Optus Stadium
PLAYER OF THE YEAR
BRAD ELBOROUGH’S VOTES
3 Bontempelli (Bulldogs)
2 Smith (Bulldogs)
1 Macrae (Bulldogs)
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