Western Bulldogs coach Luke Beveridge has hailed the courage of his depleted side to pip Port Adelaide by three points in an AFL thriller on Saturday.
Beveridge lost key playmaker Luke Dalhaus to a knee injury early but the Dogs prevailed 15.10 (100) to 14.13 (97) in an Adelaide Oval classic.
Dalhaus strained medial ligaments in a knee in the first quarter and will miss “some weeks”, said Beveridge, who is yet to know the exact extent of the injury.
The Bulldogs, sparked by a late game-breaking cameo from Jake Stringer, came from nine points down at three quarter-time to win a fierce match which second-year coach Beveridge rated “up there with the best” of any game in his tenure.
“It’s as high-pressure game we have played in all year,” Beveridge said.
“It was a great battle, both teams going hard at each other and going hard at the footy.
“I don’t know how many lead changes there were but it was a day of persistence. If the game goes for another couple of minutes, who knows who wins.
“They were really brave, our guys, and so were the Port Adelaide players.”
The Dogs, now with nine wins and three losses, prevailed by booting five goals to three in a gripping last quarter.
Stringer was the catalyst of the comeback; after a quiet initial three quarters, Beveridge moved the forward to a wing and he slotted two goals in five minutes to give his side a lead they never relinquished.
The Dogs also overcame some questionable umpiring – Port won the free kick count 23-10 – which prompted Beveridge to send acting captain Matthew Boyd to seek clarification from the umpires at three quarter-time.
“In relation to running with the flight of the ball … there were one or two aerials (duels) that we just had a question about what the interpretation is today,” Beveridge said.
“So Matt went over and politely asked and it’s a captain’s prerogative to do that.”
Ninth-placed Port were gallant but are still yet to beat a top-eight side this season.
“It was a great game of footy but one side ended up losing by three points,” Port coach Ken Hinkley said.
“I’m proud of the effort, proud of the performance – really disappointed we lost, don’t like losing.”