A controversial late goal to Marcus Bontempelli has helped the Western Bulldogs keep their AFL finals hopes alive with a tense two-point win over West Coast in Carrara.
- The win has the Bulldogs ninth on the ladder to stay in the race for a finals berth
- Tom Hawkins kicked four goals in the Cats’ 66-point thumping of the Bombers
- The Saints moved to sixth position on the ladder following a 14-point win over the Hawks
Meanwhile, Geelong hammered Essendon in a 66-point victory at the Gabba, and in the earlier match on the Gold Coast St Kilda beat Hawthorn by 14 points.
The Bulldogs overcame a slow start in a scrappy encounter that featured comical passages of play from both sides at times as neither managed any great fluency of ball movement.
Luke Beveridge’s men dominated the contested game during the second and third quarters but were almost left to rue a horror night in front of goal before they prevailed 6.13 (49) to 7.5 (47).
The win has the Bulldogs ninth on the ladder, trailing the eighth-placed GWS via an inferior percentage, although the Giants are still to play in round 16.
The Eagles missed the chance to move inside the top four, instead remaining in fifth place two points shy of Richmond.
Bontempelli stepped up to put the Bulldogs in front with little more than three minutes left in the match.
The Bulldogs captain’s set shot from 50 metres out may have been touched on the line by Jeremy McGovern, but was called a goal.
It was then ruled there was insufficient evidence to overturn the goal umpire’s decision on review.
Young ruckman Tim English took two important marks for the Bulldogs in the dying stages but gave away a free kick to Jack Darling in a ruck contest that could have let West Coast snatch victory.
Darling’s 50-metre shot faded agonisingly wide for the Eagles.
McGovern ended the match nursing a sore thumb, while West Coast lost tagger Mark Hutchings to a hamstring injury.
The setbacks came after star ruckman Nic Naitanui was a late withdrawal with a back injury.
Early in the match, the Eagles punished the Bulldogs for their poor skills and led by 22 points at quarter-time.
The Bulldogs hit back after the break by dominating stoppages, contested possession and field position to set up a 23-11 advantage inside 50s.
But scores were level at half-time, with the Bulldogs’ accuracy in front of goal letting them down.
It looked like it might come back to haunt them when Eagles forward Liam Ryan kept a cool head to set up Tom Cole for a goal late in the final term before Bontempelli stepped up.
Bontempelli, Bailey Smith, Tom Liberatore and Jack Macrae were all influential for the Bulldogs around the contest.
Caleb Daniel (25 disposals) showed off his neat skills and Mitch Wallis kicked two important goals.
Jack Redden stood up for West Coast in the absence of injured midfielders Luke Shuey and Elliot Yeo, while Jake Waterman and returning spearhead Josh Kennedy kicked two goals each.
The Bulldogs take on Hawthorn at Adelaide Oval next Sunday, while the Eagles have just four days to prepare for a clash with St Kilda at the Gabba.
Cats embarrass Bombers
Geelong has punished an off-the-pace Essendon in a 66-point win to set the tone for Friday’s much-anticipated clash with Richmond.
The Cats romped to a 17.6 (108) to 5.12 (42) victory, having led by 59 points at half-time.
Tom Hawkins had three goals from as many attempts by half-time, his 4.1 effort pushing him 10 majors clear in the Coleman Medal race as the Bombers’ faint finals hopes were reduced to rubble.
Sam Menegola finished with two goals, 30 disposals and eight clearances, while Gryan Miers (three goals) also filled his boots.
The Cats’ victory swelled their percentage and moved them above Brisbane — who has a match in hand — to second on the ladder, four points behind Port Adelaide.
Richmond sits fourth and West Coast lurks two points back in fifth, setting up a high-stakes clash on Friday between the Cats and Tigers.
It was the eighth-straight match in which the Bombers failed to kick more than one goal in the opening term, their last quarter-time lead coming in round two.
The day only got worse when exciting first-year talent Irving Mosquito exited late in the third term with a knee injury.
Essendon is still a mathematical chance of playing finals but needs to win its remaining matches and rely on Greater Western Sydney, who plays last-placed Adelaide on Tuesday, to lose its final three fixtures of the home-and-away season.
Things could have been different for the Bombers if Anthony McDonald-Tipungwuti chose to walk back and take his simple set shot to open the scoring.
Instead, his handball to Mosquito missed the target, the Cats obliging with a simple goal from their ensuing foray.
The floodgates then opened as Geelong kicked 11 of the next 12 goals.
Zach Tuohy (ribs) was a late scratching for what would have been his 200th AFL match, while ruckman Rhys Stanley (groin) was also ruled out to give Josh Jenkins his Geelong debut.
Saints close to earning finals spot
The Saints jumped above Collingwood into sixth place with the 11.14 (80) to 9.12 (66) win on the Gold Coast as they attempt to end a finals drought stretching back to 2011.
Rowan Marshall, forced to lead the Saints’ forward line in the absence of Tim Membrey (finger) and Max King, kicked two goals and had eight marks while Jack Lonie also slotted two majors.
Hawks midfielder Tom Mitchell led the possession tally with 27 touches and teammate Luke Breust kicked two goals, including a late effort in the fourth quarter that gave Hawthorn hope of an unlikely victory.
Ryan Abbott, playing his first match for St Kilda after being a late inclusion when King was rested, settled the contest moments after Breust’s goal, before Lonie added some gloss in the dying minutes.
The youthful Hawks, with coach Alastair Clarkson making seven changes from the line-up that lost to Adelaide on Tuesday, made a bright start, kicking the first three goals of the match in a high-scoring opening quarter.
The Saints responded to hit the front after a three-goal burst of their own but two more majors to the Hawks ensured they had a three-point advantage at the first change.
Both teams tightened up in the second term, with the Saints scoring the only major with two minutes left in the quarter to edge their way in front by half-time.
The Hawks were unlucky not to be ahead at the break, with triple-premiership winner Breust guilty of wasting three opportunities at goal, including a kick after the siren in the first quarter that was smothered on the mark by Paddy Ryder.
Breust did find the target after half-time as the Hawks hit the front again but an inspirational goal right on three-quarter time by Jack Billings ensured the Saints held a 13-point lead at the final turn.
The defeat is the Hawks’ sixth in a row and leaves them 16th on the ladder.
They also had injury concerns, with James Worpel suffering a shoulder injury in a collision with Dean Kent, which will likely end his season.