The Western Bulldogs have kept their final chances alive with a 20-point win over GWS in the highest scoring match of the year.
Toby Greene’s career-high seven goals was not enough for Giants to take home the four points on Saturday night.
The match turned into a shoot out in the first half, with 19 goals kicked – including five to Cody Weightman by the main break.
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But the Giants couldn’t keep up the scoring rate in the third as the Dogs set up the 19.11 (125) to 16.9 (105) win with six goals to two.
It’s the Giants highest total in club history for a losing effort.
The match has taken its toll on both teams, with the Western Bulldogs losing Taylor Duryea to a serious looking knee injury while the Giants were limited in their rotations with Braydon Preuss and James Peatling ruled out, while Jesse Hogan, Sam Taylor and Jake Riccardi all spent time on the bench.
QUARTER-BY-QUARTER MATCH REPORT
The Giants missed some chances early, while the sharpshooting Cody Weightman got the Dogs off to a strong start with a goal.
He snuck through another a few minutes later to give his side an 11-point lead.
Toby Greene kicked the Giants’ first goal, but there were distressing scenes as it came after a marking contest in which Taylor Duryea landed awkwardly and grabbed at his left knee.
He eventually got to his feet, but limped from the ground and went straight to the changerooms, looking resigned as he left.
The medical substitute was activated almost immediately, with McNeil coming into the game.
It didn’t stop the Dogs from doing damage, however, with Weightman kicking his third goal of the opening quarter and Rhylee West following with his second shortly after.
While the goalfest on display made for great viewing, less so was another injury concern, with Giants ruckman Braydon Preuss going limping from the ground after a ruck contest with what appeared to be an ankle injury.
He too went straight to the rooms and could barely put any weight on his injured foot – he was subbed out shortly after.
A goal to Stephen Coniglio just before quarter-time made it just a three-point lead to the Dogs at quarter-time.
The second term progressed much like the first, with goals aplenty coming and some thrilling passages of end-to-end play from both sides.
Weightman kicked his fourth goal of the night but the Giants responded via Jesse Hogan.
Back-to-back goals to Aaron Naughton made it a 13-point game, but yet again the Giants were up to the task, kicking back-to-back goals of their own.
Weightman and Greene traded majors again to end the first half, which saw a season-high 19 goals kicked.
Of those, Weightman had four and Greene five, while the Dogs held a five-point lead.
Marcus Bontempelli extended the Dogs lead before Toby Greene gave the Giants a spark.
Jake Riccardi put them in front midway through the third term before Dogs medical staff rushed to Weightman’s aid.
Weightman was left clutching his left elbow when it popped out on the field.
“Oh that’s hard to watch,” commentator Luke Darcy said.
Medical staff were able to put it back in place before strapping it up and allowing Weightman to return to the contest.
While he was off, the Dogs made their move with four straight goals, including a fourth to Naughton, to open up a 25-point lead.
When the Giants tried to go by hand to clear the defensive zone, they coughed it up and the ball ended up with Jamarra Ugle-Hagan, who made no mistake.
“The goals haven’t dried up for the Bulldogs … it’s suddenly very tricky for the Giants,” commentator Hamish McLachlan said.
Giant Sam Taylor was able to return to the contest after appearing to split open his chin to add to the injury carnage.
But for three quarter time, it was the Bulldogs with a 31-point lead.
Lachie Ash gave the Giants the best possible start to the final term with a big goal from outside 50.
But Naughton had the immediate response with a big contested mark, kicking his fifth goal of the match.
“He’s just too strong in the body,” commentator Wayne Carey said.
The medical sub, Jarrod Brander, managed to sneak forward and keep GWS in the contest minutes later as they lost another player – James Peatling with hamstring tightness.
The match tightened up in the final term as neither side could break away cleanly from the stoppage.
Twice in the final term Tim English put his body on the line to take big contested marks in defensive 50.
“That’s what really good ruckmen do – stand in that hole and mark it,” Carey praised.
Jake Riccardi came from the field with blood coming from the top of his head, as the Giants went down another rotation.
Like his teammate Taylor, he was able to return to the contest well bandaged.
But while he was off, Jack Macrae kicked an easy goal thanks to an off-the-ball 50m penalty.
Greene had the answer with his sixth goal, a career high, when he took a great mark one-on-one.
He had a seventh late in the contest, but it was too little too late for the Giants as the Bulldogs hung on to a 20-point win.
THE 3-2-1 …
3. SPECTACULAR SMALLS THROWBACK TO YESTERYEAR
It was a throwback to the matches of old, with two forwards kicking bags of goals at either end.
The two leading goalscorers on Saturday night – Toby Greene and Cody Weightman – may not be your typical ‘key’ forwards, but the pair well and truly play taller than what their pure height suggests.
It almost seemed as if the pair were buoyed by each other’s exploits in a pulsating first half.
At the main break, Weightman had five goals while Greene had four, with the pair playing a huge role in the high-octane, high-scoring contest that unfolded from virtually the first bounce.
“We’ve spoken about the Bulldogs’ ball use and he has got on the end of that, but he has been a player who for his size has been able to impact aerially,” Nathan Buckley said of Weightman.
“To be as efficient as this, to be able to get those five kicks and then to finish effectively is no small feat.
“It’s exactly what you need from your forwards, he’s positioning himself well, he’s hit up at the ball, he’s got out the back a couple of times on those full ground ball movements of the Dogs.
“He’d be loving life as a forward at the moment the way the ball is coming his way.”
In yet another throwback to yesteryear, there was even the sight of a player braving a thick injury blow to return to the field, with Weightman playing on despite a nasty elbow dislocation
Greene’s performance underscored why his side had missed him so desperately in the opening rounds of the season as he served a suspension.
“He’s been everywhere. We know he can be a great midfielder at times but ultimately he’s been forward tonight,” Jonathan Brown said.
“I can do it in any style; he can take a big contested mark, he can do it at ground level, he can do it on the run. That’s why he’s such a difficult matchup.
“He’d still be the hardest matchup in football.”
Greene finished with a career-high seven goals in what became the highest-scoring game of the year so far.
2. DOGS’ PATH TO FINALS BECOMES SLIGHTLY LESS DAUNTING
Not many people would’ve thought Western Bulldogs could finish the round just one game outside the top eight.
Yet, in this crazy season we’re having, that’s exactly what transpired.
Sydney’s loss to Port Adelaide and St Kilda’s loss to Essendon put just one game between the Dogs and sixth spot.
Add to that the fact the Dogs have the best percentage of any side below fourth and there are huge opportunities ahead if they can play their best footy.
Granted, there are some huge tests ahead for the Dogs, who have one of the hardest home runs in the competition, but there were some very impressive signs from the side, at least from an offensive point of view.
They’ll get a crack at two of the sides currently occupying those spots between sixth and eighth, that being Sydney and St Kilda in back-to-back weeks.
It’s a hard road ahead, but it’s far from an unchartable one with tonight’s win.
1. INJURY MADNESS MARS STUNNING SPECTACLE
Virtually the only downside of the night’s game was a number of nasty injury blows, the most concerning of which came to Taylor Duryea.
The defender landed awkwardly early in the first term and immediately clutched at his knee before being taken off the ground and straight into the rooms, looking rejected as he did so.
Everyone will be hoping Duryea has avoided a dreaded ACL rupture, but his absence was well and truly felt with Toby Greene running riot in the forward line thereafter.
Not long after, it was Braydon Preuss who limped off the ground, with the ruckman subbed out of the match shortly after.
Preuss’ absence was made all the more costly by the late out of Matt Flynn and the Giants will be sweating on scans for Preuss.
Elsewhere, AFL debutant Ryan Angwin came off the ground to receive treatment, while Cody Weightman had a thick elbow dislocation but returned to the ground to fight out the match.
It was a good win for the Dogs in an entertaining spectacle, but one that will have both sides counting the cost post-match.
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