Sport AFL Bulldogs win an edge-of-the-seat thriller to end Lions’ hopes and season

Bulldogs win an edge-of-the-seat thriller to end Lions’ hopes and season

Aaron Naughton and Josh Schache of the Bulldogs celebrate a vital goal during the seesawing battle with the losing Lions. Photo: Getty
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A rushed behind inside the final minute was the difference as the Western Bulldogs won a thrilling AFL semi-final against Brisbane at the Gabba.

Laitham Vandermeer urged the ball through for the vital point in the 11.13 (79) to 11.12 (78) win at the Gabba in a match that see-sawed until the final moments.

Bailey Smith’s calm left-footer from an angle with two minutes to play put the Dogs ahead by six, before Zac Bailey ran into an open goal to level the scores again with 74 seconds to play.

A free kick at the centre bounce helped the ball forward for the Bulldogs in what proved the decisive clearance between two sides that had been separated by half a percentage point at the end of the regular season.

The Bulldogs will now play Port Adelaide in a preliminary final, while it is a third-straight finals exit and second straight-sets departure for Brisbane without a grand final appearance.

Marcus Bontempelli (29 touches) went off late in the final term with a knee complaint but it was Caleb Daniel (31 disposals) and Jack Macrae (38) who powered them forward.

Hugh McCluggage (28 touches) was a shining light for the hosts while Charlie Cameron kicked three brilliant first-quarter goals.

Already patched-up due to injuries, the Lions lost both Jack Payne and Jarrod Berry to head knocks in the second quarter, while Cody Weightman was also subbed at halftime following a head knock.

Cameron lit up the Gabba in an incredible five-minute passage, snapping a goal then managing arguably his best effort of the year when he pinned a punt across his body while running full-tilt towards the pocket.

Joe Daniher goaled too but Bailey Smith also scored directly from a stoppage amongst it all as Brisbane led by 11 at quarter time.

Daniher’s drop punt from an acute angle missed everything to begin the second term before three-straight Bulldog goals shot them into the lead.

Titanic tussle

Brisbane lifted though and twice threatened to pull away only to be left with a 10-point third-term buffer to show for their efforts.

Macrae, with his 34th possession, didn’t miss to begin the final term though and then former Lion Josh Schache put his side in front after a bad turnover in Brisbane’s forward line.

Smith then wobbled another through, just beating Marcus Adams on the line as the Dogs jumped ahead by eight points.

Tom Fullarton then lobbed up with a crucial Lions goal, kicking truly before fullback Harris Andrews’ move forward almost pocketed him a goal.

His set shot just sailed wide though, levelling the score with eight minutes to play.

Smith and Bailey traded blows before the crucial penalty that led to the vital point, the final 28-19 count in the Bulldogs’ favour not appreciated by the 36,470 crowd.