AFL 7 months ago

Bulldogs Bite Back: Dogs Back In The Top Four As They Take Care Of Saints

  • Bulldogs Bite Back: Dogs Back In The Top Four As They Take Care Of Saints

    MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - MAY 27: Jake Stringer of the Bulldogs celebrates a goal during the 2017 AFL round 10 match between the Western Bulldogs and the St Kilda Saints at Etihad Stadium on May 27, 2017 in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Michael Willson/AFL Media/Getty Images)

Western Bulldogs     2.2     5.6     10.9     13.12.90
St. Kilda                        2.1     3.2     5.5        7.8.50

Goals
Western Bulldogs: Stringer 5, Bontempelli, Johannisen, Dale, T. Boyd, Dickson, Murphy, Picken, Suckling
St. Kilda: Gresham, McCartin, Weller, Billings, McKenzie, Membrey, Newnes

Alex Docherty's Best
Western Bulldogs:
Stringer, Johannisen, Daniel, Dale, Murphy, Wallis, Hunter
St. Kilda: Newnes, Montagna, Stevens, Roberton, Carlisle, Ross

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A starring role from the returning Jake Stringer has aided the Western Bulldogs in their return to the winners list, defeating St. Kilda in comfortable fashion, to the tune 40 points at an open-roof Etihad Stadium on Saturday afternoon in front of solid crowd of nearly 35,000 spectators. The win puts the Western Bulldogs in the top four ahead of their bye next week.

The start to the contest was anything but convincing with either side struggling to get a firm grip on the contest. After a Matt Suckling error on the wing led to an easy Saints goal courtesy of Jack Billings in the opening minutes, the contest became a bit of an arm wrestle with both teams displaying very ordinary skills. Both sides had two goals to their name by quarter time, but it was the Dogs found themselves in front at the first break, but it very much should've been St. Kilda's lead.

The Saints recorded nearly 40 more disposals than the Bulldogs and led them in the inside 50s 15-11. But it was their horrific ball use going forward that prevented them from going ahead. It also didn't help that they weren't hesitant to chip the ball around in their defensive half, and as a result, the movement coming out of half-back was much slower compared to the Bulldogs. 

The Saints did look to have the game on their terms in the opening moments of the second quarter when Tim Membrey slotted through his first of the afternoon in the opening couple of minutes of the term, but the Dogs were coming. Two shots on goal in the opening minutes from both Jake Stringer and Bailey Dale resulted in two times the ball hitting the right goal-post. 

However, the momentum of the match swung in the Bulldogs' favour when Caleb Daniel, all 167 centimetres of him, spoiled defender Jake Carlisle, who is nearly 200 centimetres tall at the half-forward flank. This play would turn into the Bulldogs' third goal in the afternoon, and would set the tone for a disasterous afternoon ahead for the Saints.

The Dogs would kick a further two goals of the quarter to open up a 16-point advantage at half-time, but for the Dogs, they had to look at their tackling pressure, as the Dogs only had six tackles in the second quarter - 28 in the first half, but zero tackles inside attacking 50 for the entire first half, allowing St. Kilda defenders to get easy possessions in the defensive end.

The floodgates opened up for the Bulldogs after half-time, as they piled on five goals to two in the third quarter to open up a game-high 34-point lead at three quarter time. The Bulldogs, time and time again, did their best work whenever the ball was turned over inside St. Kilda's forward 50. They were able to run the ball out of their defensive half so freely and they found a way to score more often than not.

Any fears of a St. Kilda comeback - reminiscent of early 2015 - were quickly killed off just minutes in the final quarter as Jason Johannisen roosted one home from long range, giving the Dogs an unassailable 40-point lead. The Dogs from there, put the cue in the rack and instead of putting the Saints to the sword even further, they allowed the Saints a lot of opportunities to peg the margin back to a more respectable difference, but two late goals from both Tom Boyd and Liam Picken ensured the Bulldogs ran out comfortable winners.

However, the win might have come with a significant cost with Western Bulldogs captain Robert Murphy facing some more time out of the game with what looked like a serious hamstring injury late in the final quarter, when he pulled up towards Jade Gresham. After making a successful return from an ACL injury this year, a hamstring injury would've been the last thing the Bulldogs' captain needed. Even with the bye next week, coach Luke Beveridge conceded that he might be out for a few weeks.

Leading The Way

Jake Stringer was last seen a few weeks ago at Etihad Stadium clutching his knee in the third quarter during the Bulldogs' win against Richmond. Everybody feared it was a season-ending ACL, but he came back just a fortnight later and proved to be the match-winner on this afternoon. Stringer kicked five goals in a best afield display, including the Bulldogs' first four goals of the match. The Saints had no answers for 'The Package', with Nathan Brown, Shane Savage, Dylan Roberton and Jack Sinclair all facing him at one point or another, and all of them well beaten by Stringer's pace off the mark and his nous for goal.

Last year's Norm Smith Medallist Jason Johannisen had one of his finer games of season 2017, racking up a team-high 29 disposals, along with eight rebound 50s, four inside 50s and a goal, Caleb Daniel had another stunning game, with 22 disposals at 81% efficiency, four tackles and three inside 50s whilst Bailey Dale enjoyed his best game so far in his short career with a career-best 27 disposals, four inside 50s and a goal. 

In the middle of the ground, Mitch Wallis backed up his very successful return last week with another wonderful performance in the midfield that saw him record 28 disposals, seven clearances, five inside 50s and four tackles, the duo of Jack Macrae (25 disposals and five inside 50s) and Luke Dahlhaus (27 disposals, six inside 50s) continue their stunning seasons, whilst debutant Tim English showed some real positive signs in his first game, with seven disposals and three tackles, and could've possibly had a goal to his name if it weren't for a combination of clumsy umpiring and team mates hungry for goal.

Marcus Bontempelli also did his bit in the midfield with 22 disposals, seven marks and four inside 50s, but could've enhanced his day even further if it wasn't for his horrific kicking at goal, booting 1.4 including a selfish act in the last quarter, which saw the Bont ignore the in-form Jake Stringer - who was yet  open again - and instead opting to go on the outside of the boot from close range, capping off a really filthy game in front of the big sticks. 

On the other end of the ground, Dale Morris continued to get the job done in defence, forming a strong team in defence with Easton Wood and Marcus Adams preventing goals left, right and centre. Robert Murphy, before injury, was amongst the Bulldogs' better players, he had 23 disposals, seven marks, six inside 50s and a goal in the third term which saved the Dogs from messing up a certain goal.

The Opposition

After a disappointing 50-point loss to the Sydney Swans at the very same venue last weekend, it was expected of the Saints to have a better showing, but unfortunately for all St. Kilda supporters, it was a performance I can only describe just as bad, if not worse. I wrote at the start of the year that St. Kilda were expected to contend for a spot in the Finals this year, but the reality is that there's still a lot of work to be done. The Saints have the bye next week, before facing Adelaide, and if not much has changed by then, they will get completely annihilated by a side that is arguably the in-form team of the league right now.

It starts with being able to settle for life without Nick Riewoldt down forward, and if Saturday proved to be an indication, it's going to be easier said than done. Paddy McCartin tried hard down forward, and took nine marks from 15 disposals and kicked a goal, but he dropped a few that he should've taken throughout the day, plus it didn't help that he only started getting involved when the game was over. Tim Membrey kicked 44 goals for the Saints last year, but on Saturday he had to work up the ground to get a kick, which is a telling sign he's struggling, and Josh Bruce is out-of-favour and stranded in the VFL.

Jack Newnes starred for the Saints - possibly their best player on the day, he had 23 disposals by half-time and finished the game with 35 disposals, which sets a new career-high, he also had eight marks, seven tackles, five inside 50s and a goal. Leigh Montagna also had a great game with 34 disposals,nine marks and three rebound 50s, whilst the in-form Seb Ross recovered from a sluggish start to finish the day with 30 disposals, eight tackles, six clearances and six inside 50s. 

Former Bulldog Koby Stevens had a wonderful outing in his first meeting against his old side since being traded to St. Kilda at the end of last year. He recorded 28 disposals, eight tackles, seven clearances and six marks, however their star midfielder Jack Steven (17 disposals) was well held by the Bulldogs' on-ballers. In defence, Jake Carlisle (21 disposals, eight marks, four rebound 50s) and Sam Gilbert (20 disposals, four tackles) battled on, whilst Dylan Roberton (25 disposals, nine marks, seven rebound 50s) continued his impressive 2017 campaign.

Next Week

The Western Bulldogs go into the bye next week inside the top four at 6-4, before they journey up to the Sydney Cricket Ground for a second clash against the Swans. A lot has changed since these two teams collided at Etihad Stadium in round two, the Swans have picked up a little bit of form, winning three of the last four games, but the Dogs have proven to be somewhat of a bogey side in recent times, losing their past four encounters.

Whilst there will be no Match Preview or Review next weekend, stick around on Bulldogs Centre as we present our mid-season review of the reigning premiers, as well as other special features we will present in the next couple of weeks.

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