Losing by just two points, the Bulldogs put the Eagles Qualifying Finals hopes in limbo with just two games left to play.
In what was a thriller of a match up, the Bulldogs edged the Eagles by a fraction of a millimetre in Sunday night’s game at the Metricon.
With four minutes left on the clock, Bulldogs captain Marcus Bontempelli stepped up to kick a goal that would win the game for the Dogs, but only by the finest of margins. And from our seats it looked as though the goal shouldn’t have stood, with Jeremy McGovern getting a hand to the footy just as it was crossing the line.
The goal umpire signalled for a goal, but the call was taken upstairs, with the score review revealing a fraction of a gap between the ball crossing the line and McGovern’s hand making contact.
With insufficient evidence to overturn the goal umpire’s decision, the goal still stood dashing the Eagle’s hopes of a win, with the Dogs coming out on top 6.13 (49) to 7.5 (47).
In what was a frustrating defeat for the Eagles, looking to get over their bad run of form at the Metricon, the West Coast were outplayed by a sharp Dogs side who hunted in packs and moved the ball well as a team.
The Eagles were dealt with a blow even before the match started, with ruckman, Nic Naituani being omitted late on with a back injury. Tom Hickey stepped up in his place to share the ruck duties with Oscar Allen.
Adam Simpson after the game conceded, “I thought the Bulldogs outplayed us almost all night, so we were lucky to be in it. The numbers don’t look great,” and the stats don’t look great from an Eagles point of view. The Dogs outclassed the Eagles with nearly double the amount of inside 50s, more possessions and a whopping 319 disposals, 53 more than the Eagles managed.
But the Eagles dominated the first quarter with the Bulldogs failing to record a goal in the first 16 minutes of the match.
Liam Ryan got off to a flyer, tearing down the left wing to play in Jake Waterman who cooly slotted the ball over for the first major of the game.
The Bulldogs came at the Eagles shortly after, putting pressure on the West Coast and forcing the Eagles defence to kick across goal to Jeremy McGovern, who could do little but gather the ball before Sam Lloyd wrapped him up and forced a free kick infront of the posts. But the Eagles got a let off, as Lloyd sent the ball wide for a behind.
Despite this, McGovern, Tom Cole, Brad Sheppard and Liam Duggan did well to bat away multiple Dogs attacks that came at them, and a notable mention goes up to the youngster, Brayden Ainsworth, who got some hang time, beating Aaron Naugton to take a very important mark inside the Eagles 50.
And with Hickey, Jack Redden, Tim Kelly and Dom Sheed causing a few issues for the Dogs in the centre of the park, the Eagles swung the momentum to move the ball down the left wing again, with Jack Darling setting up Jake Waterman for his second goal of the night, a replica of his previous major.
Liam Ryan got the Eagles 4th before the end of the first term, with Jack Darling showing us he can also work as a ruck, tapping the ball down to Sheed who put in a perfect cross-field kick to Ryan inside the 50.
The Dogs turned up the heat in the second grabbing three goals in a row, with 2 time All-Australian Bontempelli pinpointing Sam Lloyd inside the 50. Lloyd took the major this time and got the Dog’s scoreboard ticking.
Jackson Nelson then conceded a free kick inside the Eagles 50 for travelling, which Mitch Wallis slotted over bringing the Dogs within 7 points of the Eagles.
And Josh Dunkley got the third, following some fast offloading play from the dogs, which the Eagles did struggle to control throughout the game.
The West Coast took another injury blow with Mark Hutchings coming off just before halftime with a hamstring issue and it looks like it might be another long stint on the sidelines for Hutch with Simpson hinting after the game “he wont be playing for a while.”
There was little action during the majority of the third quarter, but both teams got on the score board late on. The Eagles took the attack down the left wing again, with Tim Kelly recovering the footy well, to play in Dom Sheed. Sheed wound up his wand of a left foot, and from open play, slotted a wonder of a kick through the goal.
The Dogs came back just before the final break, with the Eagles backline failing to deal with a long ball and a pack of rabid Dogs players quickly bounding up field. The Eagles couldn’t keep a track of the oncoming Dogs players, and an over the top ball saw Mitch Wallis, who had snuck forward unmarked, go clear on goal to put the Dogs one point ahead before before the siren.
Things then got tense in the final quarter.
Jack Darling had an opportunity early on but was unable to convert a freekick just inside the Dogs 50, which, although a tough kick for the right footer, would prove to be a costly miss for the Eagles.
Sheed was our man of the match today and was particularly impressive breaking down the Dogs midfield intercepting a handball in the middle of the park. He then found Andrew Gaff who darted forward and cooly clipped accross the Dog’s arc to Josh Kennedy who took his second of the night.
Although the Dogs pressure proved too much for the Eagles, as Zaine Cordy dispossessed Josh Kennedy in midfield, and enabled Caleb Daniel to swing momentum in the other direction and play in Roarke Smith who put the Dogs in front by one point.
Although Liam Ryan was unable to match last week’s four-goal haul, he showed he is as much of an athlete on the ground as he is in the air, taking a superb grab just outside the Dogs arc, and opted to run with the ball, dancing around multiple defenders before putting an outstanding kick in to Tom Cole who put the Eagles 4 points up going into the last five minutes.
But the West Coast just couldn’t hang on, and were dealt a tough blow with Bontempelli kicking late on in the game to edge out a result for the Bulldogs.
In what was a hard loss for the Eagles, their woes will be intensified as star defender Jeremy McGovern suffered an injury to his thumb in a contest during the second half. Simpson said after the game that McGovern would undergo a scan but would bounce back as someone who has “played with so much pain and resilience over the years, if anyone can he can.”
The Eagles will hope to bounce back from this tough loss to keep their finals hopes alive with a win on Thursday night against St. Kilda at the Gabba.
Western Bulldogs: Wallis (2.2); Dunkley (1.2); Bontempelli (1.1); Lloyd (1.1); Smith (1.0)’ Naughton (0.2)’ Johannisen (0.1); McLean (0.1).
West Coast Eagles: Kennedy (2.2); Waterman (2.0); Cole (1.0); Ryan (1.0); Sheed (1.0); Darling (0.2).
Best Players Bulldogs: Daniels; Bontempelli; Lloyd.
Best Players Eagles: Ryan; Duggan; Redden.
Injuries: Hutchings (hamstring); McGovern (thumb).