The Western Bulldogs’ top-four hopes are hanging by a thread after Port Adelaide handed them their third loss in a row at Marvel Stadium by two points in a Friday night thriller.
After leading most of the night, and opening up a 22-point advantage when they kicked the first four goals in 10 minutes, the Bulldogs relinquished the lead for the first time with 4:58 remaining in the game when Robbie Gray slotted home a set shot from a tight angle on the boundary.
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The Dogs had one last roll of the dice with three seconds remaining when Bailey Smith had a shot from 50m out, but it fell short, Aaron Naughton wasn’t able to mark it in the goal square and Todd Marshall rushed it through to ensure a famous win for the Power.
After scoring their first win against a top-four side for the year, Port Adelaide are provisionally on top of the ladder and have guaranteed themselves a top-two spot, which means they will be hosting a qualifying final at Adelaide Oval next week (Covid restrictions permitting).
But the victory came at a cost for them, with emerging young forward Mitch Georgiades subbed out due to a hamstring injury, putting his finals campaign in limbo.
The Bulldogs are now pinning their hopes on the unlikely scenario of West Coast upsetting the Brisbane Lions at the Gabba on Saturday evening to secure the double chance.
But if Brisbane beats the Eagles, as they’re expected to do, Luke Beveridge’s team will finish the season in fifth spot on the ladder and miss out on the double chance at the last hurdle after spending the last 20 weeks in the top four, including eight rounds in first position.
The Bulldogs will now likely face Essendon in a sudden-death elimination final, assuming the Lions and Bombers beat West Coast and Collingwood respectively.
Wines, Boak strike again
Port Adelaide’s superstar duo of Travis Boak and Ollie Wines combined again to be the driving force behind the result, combining for 65 disposals, 27 contested possessions, 13 tackles, 11 inside 50s, 12 score involvements, nine clearances and three goals. Ruckman Scott Lycett also dined out on his undersized opponent Lewis Young to play a pivotal role in the middle of the ground.
Clearances a concern for Dogs
After losing the clearances against Essendon (47-31) and Hawthorn (35-33) in the previous two weeks, the Bulldogs midfield was comprehensively shaded in that department again on Friday night (34-27), which is a concern with finals around the corner. If it wasn’t for the Power’s wayward goalkicking, the final margin would’ve been a lot greater.
Power’s goalkicking display almost cost them
The Power should have at least led at half-time, but their wastefulness, especially missed set shots from Todd Marshall (twice), Xavier Duursma, Mitch Georgiades and Steven Motlop, conspired against them. Their second quarter threatened to be particularly costly, as they smashed the Dogs in clearances 12-4, disposals 108-74, contested possessions 33-27 and inside 50s 15-7, yet were outscored by three points. However, they kept coming and the weight of numbers in the second half overwhelmed the Dogs.