The Western Bulldogs have demolished Port Adelaide by 71 points to advance to the AFL grand final against Melbourne.
The Dogs produced a stunning first-half blitz en route to a 17.14 (116) to 6.9 (45) victory in Saturday night’s preliminary final at Adelaide Oval.
The unfancied Bulldogs booted the initial five goals in a seven-goal opening term to lead by 37 points at quarter time.
By halftime, they were ahead by 58 points – 12.8 to 3.4 – as heavy favourites Port wilted.
The Bulldogs, to meet the Demons in the September 25 season decider in Perth, held sway in the second half despite losing Laitham Vandermeer to a hamstring strain.
The Dogs had 10 goalkickers, headed by four from the brilliant Bailey Smith, three from Mitch Hannan, and two apiece from Aaron Naughton and skipper Marcus Bontempelli.
Smith (23 disposals) was superb while Bontempelli (20 possessions) showed no signs of a knee injury suffered late in their semi-final win against Brisbane.
Winger Jack Macrae (36 disposals), Bailey Dale (24) and Caleb Daniel (22) were prolific ball-winners while Adam Treloar rebounded from his quiet semi-final with 23 possessions and a goal.
Their collective feats overwhelmed Port despite the gallant efforts of Ollie Wines (38 possessions, one goal) and halfback Riley Bonner (32 disposals), while Charlie Dixon kicked two goals.
Port have now lost consecutive home preliminary finals, after losing last year’s edition to eventual premiers Richmond by six points.
As impressive as the Bulldogs were in the match-defining first half, the Power offered meek resistance – the Dogs dominated contested possessions and led that key statistic by 26 the main break.
And when the ball was in dispute, the Bulldogs were invariably first to the footy – they led ground-ball gets by a whopping 61-29 late in the second term.
Shock and awe
The Bulldogs’ first-term assault was triggered by a Bailey Smith goal only 46 seconds into the final – some 14 minutes later, the visitors led 31-0.
The shell-shocked Power couldn’t muster a score until an accurate Wines snap in the 21st minute.
The Bulldogs piled on five goals to two in the second stanza with a a classy long-range major from Bontempelli putting them 59 points up just before halftime.
Port belatedly showed some spark in the third term, booting the initial two goals but the Dogs then put the clamps on before kicking two late majors to restore a 58-point lead at three quarter-time.
The Dogs then increased their margin in a tame last term ahead of their first grand final appearance since their 2016 premiership.