Coach Luke Beveridge has applauded the Western Bulldogs’ grit after Jason Johannisen’s goal in the dying seconds to seal a thrilling four-point AFL win over Sydney.
Johannisen’s heroics after a nine-week injury layoff secured a 13.5 (83) to 11.13 (79) victory on Saturday at the SCG, lifting them to fifth place and denying the Swans top spot on a logjammed ladder.
The seesawing clash was the Dogs’ first return to the ground since their epic triumph by the same margin last season in round five.
“It’s been a happy hunting ground the last two years,” Beveridge said.
“A couple of incredible wins, and tonight is worth about 10, I think.
“To achieve an experience like we did tonight … they count for more than normal because you hold your nerve and you keep your faith when the chips are down.
“It showed a lot of grit (from) our boys, just a brilliant victory.
“JJ was cool as a cucumber in the end.”
Johannisen was surprisingly quick off the halfback line in his first appearance in 10 weeks since tearing a hamstring tendon.
Despite not playing a reserves match in the lead-up, the 23-year-old took an impressive 20 possessions as the Dogs kept numbers behind the ball to restrict the Swans’ movement.
It was an effective tactic that helped former Swan Shane Biggs kick the game’s opening goal from outside 50m.
Though Lance Franklin (five goals, 21 disposals) and Jarrad McVeigh steered the hosts to the lead at the first break, the Dogs surged ahead via a three-goal second-quarter flurry within four minutes.
That included two from Jake Stringer in 80 seconds, his second an explosive sharp-angled snap to contend for one of the goals of the season.
Franklin ensured the Swans didn’t trail for long, matching Stringer with two of his own majors in as many minutes.
But as the contest opened up, the Dogs stepped up their inside-50 efficiency to snatch a 13-point edge in a dominant third term.
Lachie Hunter and Marcus Bontempelli were relentless but Tom Libertore changed the momentum by scoring two of his team’s five unanswered goals and having a hand in the other three.
“Some of the things he did in that third quarter to put us in the game were brilliant,” Beveridge said.
That was despite Luke Parker’s standout performance with a match-high 34 disposals and 23 handballs.
Swans coach John Longmire described Sydney’s third quarter as poor.
“They outhunted us in that third term in contested ball and uncontested ball, but also in clearances.
“We allowed them to kick six of their goals in the third term which really cost us.”
For only the second time this campaign, the Swans were behind at three-quarter time.
Franklin rammed home two rapid goals to claim a one-point lead that was soon extended to a shaky three points.
And under pressure, with fulltime about to sound, Johannisen stepped up and delivered.