The Western Bulldogs stunned ladder-leaders Geelong with a 16-point win at Marvel Stadium on Saturday night, sending a message to the rest of the competition that they could cause headaches in the run to the finals.
The win ensured the Bulldogs kept their finals hopes alive, while the Cats maintained their ladder position, although the gap to second-placed West Coast narrowed to one game and percentage after the Eagles smashed Fremantle by 91-points.
After a defensive battle for the first three quarters the Dogs broke the game open with five last quarter goals, winning 10.11(71) to 7.13 (55).
Bulldog Marcus Bontempelli said after the match his club were on a roll.
“It was simple, we used the ball better,” he told Channel Seven.
“It felt like the first three quarters we were transitioning it well from the back half but kept kicking to it the Geelong defenders.”
I think we got more bang for buck. We were working hard up the ground …
“You are really looking for that one hard-fought win and we hoped we put ourselves in a good spot … so hopefully we can carry that momentum on.”
Bulldog Lachie Hunter was best on ground, getting 11 possession in the crucial last quarter.
In Adelaide, Crows coach Don Pyke has apologised to his club’s fans after a 57-point capitulation to arch foes Port Adelaide.
Pyke accused his players of laziness in Port’s 15.11 (101) to 5.14 (44) victory at Adelaide Oval. It was the Crows’ lowest total against Port and second-heaviest defeat to their bitter rivals.
Port, inspired by Robbie Gray’s dazzling 35 disposals, Tom Rockliff (36 touches) and three-goal forward Brad Ebert, booted nine majors in a row.
Pyke said it was Adelaide’s worst half of footy in his four-year coaching tenure.
“We were embarrassed,” he said. “We were outplayed by a side that worked harder than us.
“And I want to apologise to our members and fans that turned up to watch because it was nowhere near good enough from all of us.”
Earlier Essendon overcame the late withdrawal of star skipper Dyson Heppell and a stern challenge by Sydney to score a gritty 10-point win at the MCG.
The Swans led by three points at three-quarter time, but the Bombers sprang to life to boot the first four goals of Saturday afternoon’s final term to set up a 11.10 (76) to 9.12 (66) win in front of 60,199 fans.
The victory was the resurgent Essendon’s fourth in its past five matches and snapped a run of three wins for Sydney, whose last victory against the Bombers at the MCG was in 1923.
Heppell was ruled out with a sore foot before the opening bounce, but Dylan Shiel (29 possessions), Darcy Parish (22) and David Zaharakis (22 touches and three goals) stepped up in his absence.
Josh Kennedy was outstanding for the Swans with 35 disposals, as was Isaac Heeney with 33. But, with Lance Franklin still absent due to a hamstring injury, they struggled to find a focal point in attack.
Tigers roar against Gold Coast
Meanwhile Richmond is also on the move with a 23.12 (150) to 9.4 (58) victory over Gold Coast at Metricon Stadium on Saturday.
Remarkably Richmond had iced the result by halftime, defying wet conditions to lead the bottom-placed Suns 16.7 (103) to 3.1 (19).
Richmond’s Brandon Ellis had already cast his mind to next week’s opponent Greater Western Sydney when interviewed by Fox Sports as he came off the field at the main break.
“Our percentage isn’t great at the moment so a good win today hopefully boosts that up and we look forward to GWS next week,” Ellis said.
It was the Tigers’ third-highest half-time score, just short of their record 17.9 (111) against North Melbourne in 1931.
The 84-point deficit was Richmond’s second-biggest half-time lead. And it also marked the first time in seven years that an AFL team had racked up 100 points in a half.
Hardwick claimed sixth-placed Richmond (9-6 record) have “work to do” on their finals push.
“You have a commanding lead at halftime and the game very rarely continues on that front,” he said.
“If you had have said to me at the start of the day you’ll win by close to 100 points we’ll take that, but we also realise we have a fair bit of work to do in a few areas as well.”
The Tigers had started the match with a percentage of 95.3 – the worst of any team inside the top 13 – but now sit on 103.
The Tigers appear ideally placed to turn home and make a serious finals run, with their next seven games at the MCG.
But Hardwick wasn’t so sure, admitting he would get a better gauge against the fourth-placed Giants.
“That’s a pretty formidable challenge for us, we’ll get a better understanding of where we’re placed,” he said.
“They beat us by about six goals earlier in the year so we’re looking forward to challenging ourselves against one of the better sides in the competition.”