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Lions fall just short of toppling Bulldogs

Michael Whiting, AFL.com.au  August 5, 2017 7:30 PM

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The Western Bulldogs dodged a bullet, escaping with a 14-point victory over the Brisbane Lions.

While the 14.19 (103) to 13.11 (89) victory at the Gabba put the Bulldogs back into the top eight, it came at a cost.

Easton Wood could miss the rest of the season after limping from the field in the first quarter with a left hamstring injury.

His loss seemed to rattle the defending premier, who led by 28 points at quarter-time but had no answers for the Lions in the next two quarters.

The home team kicked five goals to two in the second and then four answered goals in the third to hold an 11-point advantage at the final change.

Unlike their round five clash at Etihad Stadium – where the Lions coughed up a 38-point advantage before being over-run badly – the Lions wouldn't wilt.

Ryan Bastinac kicked back-to-back goals in the middle of the last term to regain the lead for the hosts, but the Bulldogs showed their premiership composure to kick the game's final three goals through Toby McLean, Marcus Bontempelli and Liam Picken.

"We had our chances in the last quarter, just didn't have that composure to take our chances and keep the scoreboard pressure on, and they were able to," Lions coach Chris Fagan said.

"They beat us in that [clearances] pretty well all night. There were lots when we were able to get our hands on the ball first a few times but not get the clearance, and they did.

"But the bottom line was what happened after quarter time was that we equalled them in contested possession, which was critical.

"Then our ball movement got going and we were able to open them up a few times and get scoring opportunities."

The Bulldogs dominated play for much of the day, winning the inside 50 count by a whopping 64-37, and deserved to notch their fourth straight win.

Jack Macrae (32 disposals), Lachie Hunter (29) and McLean (28) helped the Bulldogs to dominate the midfield battle, while Bontempelli could have had a monster day if he brought his goal-kicking boots.

"I loved that about the win, that the boys could hold their nerve," coach Luke Beveridge said.

"Most people might have expected us to beat Brisbane … you give them a little sniff and they become quite dangerous and get you on the back foot.

"They did enough, the boys.

"There's a little bit of momentum. We've probably got a little bit of our identity back, the way we want to play.

"I think by the end of the round we'll probably be in the eight, and we know to stay there, we've just got to keep winning, it's as simple as that.

"And we've got some pretty big challenges ahead of us." 

The Lions' speed worried them in the middle two quarters though, with second-gamer Jacob Allison helping to turn the tide with his pace on a wing and Lewy Taylor continuing his fine season.

The Lions kicked 5.4 from just 11 inside 50 entries in the second quarter to ignite their comeback.

Josh Walker continued to revive his career, Daniel Rich (24 disposals) kicked two long-range goals, while Tom Rockliff (22 and two goals) and Dayne Zorko (21 and two goals) also had their moments. 

The Lions finished with just two fit players on the bench after Cedric Cox (ankle) and Alex Witherden (hamstring) were both casualties.

The Bulldogs played minus Norm Smith medalist Jason Johannisen, who was the latest of late outs with a tight back, replaced by "travelling emergency" Bob Murphy just minutes before the first bounce.

MEDICAL ROOM

Brisbane Lions: Defender Darcy Gardiner came crashing to the ground after a first quarter marking contest and was taken off for a concussion test, but returned in the second term. Cox rolled his ankle before half-time and did not play another minute, while Witherden went off in the final term with a hamstring problem, although coach Chris Fagan said after the match it could have just been a bad cramp.

Western Bulldogs: Aside from the horror injury to Wood, the Bulldogs got through the match well.

NEXT UP

The Bulldogs have a short turnaround to prepare for Friday night's blockbuster against Greater Western Sydney at Etihad Stadium – their second successive six-day break. The Lions will see next Saturday's QClash against Gold Coast as a chance to win one of the two matches they need to get off the bottom of the table. 

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