Barring an unlikely meltdown, the Western Bulldogs will play finals in Luke Beveridge’s first year in charge after they prevailed over Collingwood on Sunday.
The Magpies kicked the first three goals of a tense last quarter to trail by just 11 points at Etihad Stadium, but the Dogs held their nerve to post their 10th AFL win of the season – 15.14 (104) to 13.8 (86).
The entertaining win came on the back of Beveridge’s trademark fast-paced game style that empowers his players to play on at every opportunity.
“I thought we were able to keep the pace for four quarters, which was quite outstanding by our players,” Beveridge said.
“I was a bit worried that the game was so quick that we were going to drop off.
“I thought we moved the ball really well … and we had a really even contribution from all of our players.”
Matthew Boyd was outstanding for the Dogs with 38 possessions and he was well-supported by Liam Picken (33 disposals) and Lachie Hunter (32), while Tory Dickson booted four goals.
The result strengthened the Bulldogs’ hold on sixth spot on the ladder and consigned Collingwood to their fifth loss in a row, leaving them a game outside the eight.
Dane Swan (33 disposals), Steele Sidebottom (33) and Scott Pendlebury (29) impressed for the `Pies, while Darcy Moore was the shining light up forward with five goals in just his third AFL game.
With leading goal kickers Travis Cloke and Jamie Elliott out injured, Nathan Buckley was pleased with the return he got from Moore and his other talls but lamented his smaller forwards’ inability to impact the scoreboard or keep the ball inside attacking 50.
The slick Dogs proved hard to catch with 56 more handballs than the ‘Pies and 46 more handball receives.
“They were clearly flicking it around a little bit,” Buckley said.
“We expected that, we welcomed that – we rate our ability to put pressure on the opposition – but to their credit they stuck to it and were able to get through a little bit more often than we would have liked.”
The frenetic pace of the first half gave way to a rare stalemate early in the third term but it was the Dogs who broke the deadlock.
Two goals in as many minutes helped the margin out to 26 points and, despite Moore’s second and third majors at the other end, the margin was again 26 when Stewart Crameri goaled from a free kick after the three-quarter time siren.
Things started to unravel for the Dogs as the `Pies came out strongly, with Michael Talia’s ill-discipline gifting Jesse White a goal.
But Mitch Wallis calmed frayed nerves with a settling goal that effectively ended Collingwood’s charge.