After a horror three-week stretch the Western Bulldogs have restored their place among the elite teams of the competition with a convincing 32-point win over Adelaide at AAMI stadium.
Football Park is no longer a fortress for the Crows. The Bulldogs overcoming a terrible record in Adelaide to become the fourth consecutive Melbourne club to beat the Crows at home, winning 17.16 (118) to 12.14 (86).
It was a difficult game to predict coming in. Both sides entered with three wins and three losses. Adelaide had failed to string two wins together while the Bulldogs had won their first three before a nightmare month which culminated in this trip to Adelaide.
Despite all the leading indicators suggesting otherwise - the Bulldogs have been last in the competition in kicking efficiency and points percentage in the last three weeks and second last for inside 50’s - the visitors were installed favourite but it was the Crows who started brighter.
Adelaide dominated the clearances in the opening term leading 10 to four. Their midfield linked beautifully by hand through the centre square. Scott Thompson was the pivot. He went to quarter-time with 14 handballs bringing many of his teammates into play. Adelaide were able to deliver well to Taylor Walker who was a prominent target up forward early. But he could not hurt his direct opponent Tom Williams on the scoreboard kicking 1.2 from three set shots. It did not save Williams from the wrath of Rodney Eade who banished him to the pine for the start of the second term.
The Bulldogs trailed by only seven points at quarter-time courtesy of Adelaide’s inaccuracy but they were sparked in the second by their talisman Brad Johnson. The skipper kicked an early goal and provided plenty of energy at half-forward.
Inaccuracy plagued both teams in ideal conditions. Just ten of the 39 combined shots for goal in the first half were majors and the visitors led at the long break by one point thanks to a trademark running goal from Nathan Eagleton in the shadows of half-time.
The third term was a footballing clinic from the Western Bulldogs as they kicked eight goals to one. Eade has built this side on kicking efficiency and hard running, something that had been distinctly lacking in their last three losses, but it was their efficiency and directness that was decisive in this contest.
Will Minson got first hands on the football in the ruck, and Brownlow medalists Adam Cooney and Jason Akermanis and the talented Daniel Giansiracusa led the charge after all had been quiet in the opening half. Cooney was sublime, winning the football and delivering with aplomb to the likes of Akermanis and Robert Murphy. Murphy finished the day with four goals, Akermanis threaded three including two in the third term.
Cooney combined brilliantly with Daniel Cross in the clinches who was close to the Bulldogs best all day. The AFL’s leading contested ball winner last season had 29 disposals and showed tremendous courage which is a feature of his game.
The lead at three-quarter-time was a seemingly insurmountable 45 points particularly given the Crows could not get their hands on the Sherrin. But the hosts fought on well winning the final stanza. Walker (four goals), Chris Knights (three) and Jason Porplyzia (two) all produced accomplished finishes in the last term to provide the Bulldogs with a scare but the result was never really in doubt. Josh Hill’s two late goals sealed the win for the Bulldogs which arrested their three week slide and restored them in third place on the AFL ladder on percentage.
Rodney Eade’s men have a great opportunity to go 5-3 next week with a date with Melbourne on Saturday afternoon at the MCG while Adelaide have their concerns ahead of a tough trip to the Gabba to take on the in-form Brisbane Lions.