The Western Bulldogs have shown their determination not to be September pushovers by ending North Melbourne’s seven-match AFL winning streak in dramatic fashion.
In a match of wild momentum swings between two finals-bound sides, the Bulldogs finished with more run on Saturday to claim a 14.12 (96) to 10.13 (73) win.
After overcoming the Kangaroos’ early lead, the Bulldogs looked home and hosed halfway through the last term when Jason Johannisen put them 23 points ahead.
But up stepped former Bulldog Shaun Higgins, in his 150th match, and Jarrad Waite who kicked two goals in two minutes to take it to the line.
The Bulldogs were up to the challenge, running all over the Kangaroos with the next four goals, including two from Shane Biggs.
Even more impressively, Luke Beveridge’s side achieved the result on a six-day break coming back from Perth, giving them huge confidence for the finals series ahead.
Coach Luke Beveridge said he was delighted to win “another arm wrestle-type game against a very good opponent”.
“A reminder you can hold sway in the heat of the battle and come over the top in the end.
“They probably dominated the airwaves but we found a way in the end – it’s a really significant win.”
If they can finish the season by beating last-placed Brisbane next week, the Bulldogs are set to host an elimination final in Melbourne.
That could well come against the Kangaroos, who at least started well in defender Michael Firrito’s 250th match.
Drew Petrie’s goal and spectacular step-ladder mark highlighted a tight first quarter which ended one goal apiece.
When Brent Harvey and Petrie kicked majors to open the second quarter, the Roos were on track to continue their fine winning streak.
But the Bulldogs surged back into the contest through tremendous pressure and fast ball movement.
Best-afield Marcus Bontempelli began a run of five straight goals to Beveridge’s side while the Kangaroos stayed stranded on 3.8.
Johannisen’s goal-square leap and conversion early in the third term confirmed the switch of momentum.
The Kangaroos responded, with Higgins drawing boos from the crowd as he kicked a fine running goal.
It was the Bulldogs’ turn to waste their chances, kicking five straight behinds to keep North within range.
But in the final term, the Bulldogs surged when it mattered most to grow their Etihad Stadium winning streak to nine matches.
Beaten coach Brad Scott made no attempt to hide his frustration with the performance.
“I thought they were pretty good and we were a bit off,” he said.
“I haven’t seen our mids that flat for a while but that’s unusual. I don’t think it will affect us going forward.”