The Western Bulldogs are in the top four at the halfway mark of the AFL season after they held off a late surge from West Coast to score a thrilling eight-point win on Sunday.
The Eagles kicked three unanswered goals to trail by just three points with five minutes to play, but the Dogs dug deep to record a spirited 12.11 (83) to 11.9 (75) win in front of 28,769 fans at Etihad Stadium.
“I thought the boys were just sensational right across the 22 (players) – it’s an outstanding win for us,” coach Luke Beveridge said.
“It was a real arm wrestle for most of the day and when we gapped them in the last quarter … I thought we just needed to compose (ourselves) a bit and settle ourselves down.
“It was an interesting last stanza – we sent ourselves into chaos too many times and put pressure on ourselves … hopefully we learn from that.”
The much-anticipated clash between the top-four hopefuls lived up to expectations with the desperation and intensity shown by both sides giving the contest a finals-like atmosphere.
The Bulldogs lived up to their reputation as one of the best pressure teams in the competition, their midfielders’ hard work helping negate the influence of star Eagles ruckman Nic Naitanui as they went on to win the contested possession count 152-114.
The Eagles lost no admirers with their determined effort but ultimately fell to a defeat that leaves questions about their ability to win away from Subiaco unanswered.
Lachie Hunter, Jack Macrae and Marcus Bontempelli were important in the Bulldogs’ midfield, while Matthew Boyd and Matt Suckling impressed across half-back.
Mature-age recruit Marcus Adams claimed another scalp, this time keeping West Coast spearhead Josh Kennedy to just one goal in his ninth AFL game.
“He’s become really important for us,” Beveridge said of Adams.
“He’s as good as any fresh defender going around – there’s no doubt about that
“He was tremendous again today.”
The Dogs managed their eighth win of the season a man down on the bench after Toby McLean suffered a foot injury in a tackle late in the second quarter.
Brownlow medallist Matt Priddis was outstanding for the visitors with a team-high 27 touches, with Andrew Gaff and Shannon Hurn also influential.
West Coast coach Adam Simpson admitted his side would have stolen the match had they managed to get their noses in front.
“The last 10 minutes probably showed that we can lift our intensity … I feel like we’ve got another level that we can get to this year,” Simpson said.
“We took a small step forward today even though we didn’t win.
“We won two quarters but we lost two and in the end I think, overall, they deserved to win.”
Both sides lost key players before the game, the Dogs losing influential defender and stand-in skipper Easton Wood to a hamstring injury, while West Coast’s Jeremy McGovern withdrawn due to illness.