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Is The Western Bulldogs And St. Kilda The AFL's Most Underrated Rivalry? Part Two

  • Is The Western Bulldogs And St. Kilda The AFL's Most Underrated Rivalry? Part Two

    MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - MAY 09: Players scuffle during the round six AFL match between the Western Bulldogs and the St Kilda Saints at Etihad Stadium on May 9, 2015 in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Robert Cianflone/Getty Images)

Yesterday on Bulldogs Centre, we talked about the first part of whether or not the Western Bulldogs and St. Kilda is the AFL's most underrated rivalry and discussed the more notable games in the 2000s.

Over the past couple of decades, these two sides have usually put on some really intense and very close matches, particularly over the last couple of years. The second part of this two-part series talks about the recent meetings between these two teams, dating back to 2013. with the games being memorable for one reason or another.

In case you missed Part one, you can click here:

Round 9, 2013 - The Dogs Turn It Around

Western Bulldogs      17.8.110
St. Kilda                       15.11.101

Heading into this game against the Saints, the Bulldogs were on a seven-game losing streak, and had only won one match in the last 19 outings. The Saints hadn't started their 2013 season in the best of ways either, winning only two games in eight starts, but given that St. Kilda demolished the Bulldogs on two seperate occasions last year, they loomed as the favourites on this contest.

This match ebbed and flowed all game long. The Saints kicked the opening two goals of the match, before the Bulldogs got themselves off the canvas, kicking six of the next eight goals to open up a 15-point lead at the five minute mark of the second term, before St. Kilda had kicked seven of the next nine goals to take a three-goal advantage midway through the third quarter, before the Dogs rangled back momentum with three quick goals to be within a kick at the final break. The Saints got the early jump in the last quarter with two goals in as many minutes to give them a 14-point lead, before the Bulldogs asserted their control with six of the next seven goals to open up 16-point advantage at the 23rd minute mark.

The Saints willed their way back into the contest late, but the Dogs held their nerve to record a memorable win over the Saints. Matthew Boyd (38 disposals, nine inside 50s, seven clearances), Koby Stevens (31 disposals, three goals) and Dylan Addison (Four goals) led the way for the Dogs, who would eventually go on to win six more games for the year and finish 15th, whilst the Saints would finish a place below the Bulldogs on the ladder, only registering five wins.

Round 20, 2014 - Dogs' Spoil Lenny's Last Home Game

Western Bulldogs    18.14.122
St. Kilda                         15.9.99

Season 2014 was an unmitigated disaster for both the Saints and the Dogs, St. Kilda sat on the bottom of the ladder leading into this encounter, whilst the Bulldogs had only six wins and staring at another unfulfilling season. For the Saints, they had more to win at this contest, as they used this game, their last home game, to pay homage to veteran Lenny Hayes, who was to retire at the end of the season. Hayes was a popular figure at St. Kilda, who played 297 games for the Saints, dating back to his debut year of 1999. Throughout this time, Hayes was a three-time club best and fairest winner, a three-time All-Australian and a Norm Smith Medallist in the 2010 Grand Final draw.

After both teams kicked three goals to kick proceedings off, the Bulldogs kicked away to open up a 27-point lead at quarter-time, and threatened to blow the game open at various points in the match. Midway through the second term, the Bulldogs led by 34 points, midway through the third term, the Dogs led by as much as 33 points and midway through the final quarter, the Dogs were ahead by as much as 36 points. Each time, the Saints found a way to claw back at the deficit, and threatened to cause a massive come-from-behind win, when they kicked four goals in quick succession to make it an 11-point deficit with plenty of time to play.

However, the Dogs held their nerve with two late goals to come out 23-point winners, denying the St. Kilda faithful a winning send-off for Lenny in his final home game in his career. It was unconvincing, but the Dogs got their seventh win of 2014 thanks to Jake Stringer, Stewart Crameri and Adam Cooney, the trio combined for 10 of the team's 18 goals. It would be the Bulldogs' last win of 2014, finishing the year 7-15. St. Kilda would finish at the bottom of the ladder at 4-18, earning the club a 27th wooden spoon in the history of St. Kilda.

Round 6, 2015 - The Comeback

St. Kilda                        14.10.94
Western Bulldogs      13.9.87

Anytime I think of this game, I shudder in absolute dismay. The 4-1 Western Bulldogs, under a new coach and a new lease on life, hosted a St. Kilda team that was also in amidst a rebuilding phase. At 1-4 heading into this contest, St. Kilda were the heavy underdogs in this game, and by half-time it looked like it was going to script. After an even first term, the Western Bulldogs blew the game wide open in the second quarter, booting seven goals to none to open up a 49-point half-time lead. 

Two things happened that swung the momentum in the Saints favour. The first thing was an unfortunate knee injury to a luckless Clay Smith late in the term - this being the third ACL injury in his very young career, the other moment was an all-in scuffle at the half-time siren, moments after Liam Picken goaled to put the Dogs 49 points ahead. A Jake Stringer goal in the second minute of the third quarter - his fourth of the afternoon - stretched the lead out to a game-high 55 points, and just when it looked like the Dogs had the game on it's terms, the Saints were marching their way back into the contest, piling on seven unanswered goals to finish the third quarter only 12 points behind the Bulldogs. 

St. Kilda supporters were dreaming the impossible, Bulldogs supporters were fearing the worst. Despite two goals from the Bulldogs to open the fourth term, it was the Saints, led by three final-quarter goals from the brilliant Jack Billings and 45 disposals from David Armitage that completed a 55-point comeback win- equalling the fifth greatest ever comeback deficit in the history of the game, defeating the Bulldogs by seven points. These two sides would meet later on in the season in a game that was every bit as thrilling as this contest.

Round 13, 2015 - The Payback

Western Bulldogs          9.8.62
St. Kilda                           7.14.56

It wasn't long before these two teams renewed hostilities back at Etihad Stadium. The Western Bulldogs were desperate for a win in more ways than one. They needed to get back at St. Kilda for dealing such a shock loss back in round six, but more importantly, they needed to stay on their winning ways, to keep in touch with the top eight after losing four of their past six. The Saints were only two games outside of the top eight, and another win over the Bulldogs would rocket their young and exciting list into finals contention.

Both sides could only manage a goal each in the first quarter in what could only be described as an ugly affair. Both sides had their fair share of opportunities, the Saints having more scoring opportunities by half-time, but were horribly inaccurate, only leading the Dogs by three behinds. After a Josh Bruce goal in the opening 30 seconds of the second half gifted the Saints a nine-point lead, the Bulldogs found a break, kicking four goals in a row to run out to a 17-point lead midway through the third term before a Nick Riewoldt goal brought the Saints to within two kicks at the final break.

The Bulldogs extended their margin to 21 points in the early stages of the final term, through two first-year players in Toby McLean and Lukas Webb, both young men providing cool heads in crucial moments. It looked like the Dogs at the midway point of the final term, before yet again, the Saints came a-coming. Goals to Nick Riewoldt and Josh Bruce brought the margin to nine points and given their opportunities at goal, should've got more goals out of it. Instead it was the defensive work of Easton Wood that dragged the Bulldogs over the line, with only a solitary goal seperating the two sides. The win propelled the Bulldogs into the eight, and from there they never lost their spot in the eight, going on to play finals for the first time since 2010. St. Kilda finished 14th with six wins to their name, but showed plenty of promise for the years ahead.

Round 2, 2016 - Dogs' Crash Riewoldt's 300th Celebrations

Western Bulldogs       13.15.93
St. Kilda                           5.6.36

St. Kilda champion Nick Riewoldt was to celebrate his 300th game in round two of the 2016 season, it was fitting that he'd play it against the Western Bulldogs, a side he has tormented for so long. However, the Saints had run into the Bulldogs at the worst possible time. After having dismantled Fremantle the week before, the Bulldogs wasted no time going to work on the Saints.

The Dogs had nine scoring shots in the first quarter to St. Kilda's two, and could've easily sewn the game up by quarter time if it had not been for wasteful kicking (3.6 in the first quarter). The Saints were very disappointing as they never seriously looked like threatening to take the game away from the Bulldogs. Nick Riewoldt, in his milestone game, got enough of the ball, but he just couldn't make the most of his opportunities in front of goal until the second half. He would kick the team's only two goals in the half. The Dogs would again waste their chances in front of goal with 2.6 in the third quarter, but it mattered little as they piled on four goals in the last quarter to run out 57-point winners.

Lachie Hunter (35 disposals and a goal) and Jason Johannisen (27 disposals and a goal) were the Bulldogs' best players on the ground on the evening, whilst Riewoldt was fantastic in his milestone match, taking 14 marks to go with his 23 disposals and two goals. Leigh Montagna (31 disposals), Jack Steven (29 disposals) and Jack Newnes (23 disposals, one goal) were amongst the Saints best.

Round 18, 2016 - Saints Inflict Pain In More Ways Than One

St. Kilda                      11.9.75
Western Bulldogs     9.6.60

16 weeks later, and the two teams square off once more, this time, the circumstances of this game are much different. The Dogs were fighting for a top-four spot, the Saints were outside chances of pipping North Melbourne for the eighth and final spot of the AFL's top-eight. This was another memorable game in the history of the two teams, unfortunately for the Dogs, they will remember it for the wrong reasons.

It was a hard-fought scrap all night long, with the Saints restricting the Bulldogs' fluent ball-movement for most of the night. The Dogs would kick four of the first six goals of the match, leading by five points at quarter-time, before Riewoldt would go on a small second-half rampage, kicking three of St. Kilda's four second-quarter goals to open up a small lead by half-time. The Saints had control of most of the play, but some Marcus Bontempelli brillance kept the Dogs in it. St. Kilda opened up a three-goal lead early in the third quarter, when Nick Riewoldt slotted through his fourth goal of the evening. The Dogs made it the scores level in the 17th minute, when Marcus Bontempelli missed a chance to kick his fourth goal of the night. 

The Saints gained the ascendancy again when first-year sensation Jade Gresham snapped a beauty in the pocket to give the Saints a five-point lead heading into the final break. It all fell apart for the Dogs from here. Having already lost Dale Morris to a hamstring at half-time, they lost both Mitch Wallis to a horrific broken leg and Jack Redpath to a ACL injury. The Dogs couldn't register a single score in the last quarter as the Saints recorded a 15-point victory. As Wallis screamed in agony in the rooms, several of his team mates were reportedly in tears for their fallen team mate.

The Dogs were battered and bruised that evening at Etihad Stadium, but who would've guessed that they were the ones that held the premiership cup on glorious October day. The Saints played in more Grand Finals than the Bulldogs since 1997, and in way more Finals campaigns than the Bulldogs since 2000, but it was the Bulldogs that managed to get the job done when it was finally their turn on the big stage.

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