BRISBANE LIONS 4.3 11.8 13.9 14.11 (95) WESTERN BULLDOGS 5.3 7.5 9.5 13.9 (87)
Goals: Brisbane Lions: J Brown 2 J Green 2 J Redden 2 C Beams D Zorko J Aish J Patfull M Paparone P Hanley R Bewick T Rockliff. Western Bulldogs: D Giansiracusa 2 N Hrovat 2 T Williams 2 A Cooney E Wood J Grant J Tutt L Picken R Griffen S Crameri.
Best - BRISBANE: Bewick, Redden, Zorko, Martin, Patfull, Hanley, Taylor, Clarke. WESTERN BULLDOGS: Macrae, Cooney, Wallis, Liberatore, Picken.
Umpires: Brett Rosebury, Heath Ryan, Craig Fleer.
Official Crowd: 18,054 at Etihad Stadium.
All season, the Western Bulldogs have played impressive quarters of football here and there, only to be let down, often in the same game, by others that weren't in the same ball park.
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On Saturday night, against Brisbane, the Dogs couldn't produce anything like the former example, and fell victm to the latter again. And this time, fatally, those very ordinary 30 minutes just happened also to be their opponent's best quarter of the season.
Brisbane's seven-goals-to-two second quarter at Etihad Stadium was by some distance its highest-scoring term of 2014. It was a half-hour in which the Lions ran the Bulldogs ragged, and pounced on any chances which came their way, in the process turning a narrow deficit into a decisive, and for the Doggies, uncatchable lead.
Uncatchable, despite managing just three goals in the second half. Despite the Bulldogs dominating play for the bulk of the final term. And despite their own occasional poor decisions at critical moments.
In fact, the Lions' start wasn't terrific, either. But in an entertaining, if error-prone game, that quarter of relative composure made all the difference.
Things couldn't have started a lot better for the Bulldogs, or alternately, poorly for the Lions. From the game's first bounce, a clearance from Jack Macrae sailed straight to the goalmouth, where Nathan Hrovat, in too much space, had no trouble roving the crumbs from Tom Williams and snapping truly with just 20 seconds gone.
Then, still only three minutes in, it was Williams' turn, a scrubby kick from Easton Wood managing to somehow sneak under Jed Adcock and straight into a grateful Williams' grasp, the big Queenslander charging in to an open goal.
Brisbane had an answer, though. In fact, it had several. The first was courtesy of Claye Beams, who off one step banged home a long bomb from outside the 50. Bulldog skipper Ryan Griffen converted Macrae's centre, but then Joel Patfull, aided by a 50-metre penalty conceded by Stewart Crameri, kept the Lions in touch.
They'd kick three of the next four, James Aish following suit and then Jonathan Brown taking advantage of a misguided handball from the Bulldogs' Christian Howard to snap from close range and bring the Lions within a point. Jason Tutt offered the Bulldogs some breathing space, but it was Brisbane which looked like it had more momentum, and so it subsequently transpired.
Given the Lions' season to date, what unfolded was a comparative barrage. And it started early, when Jack Redden levelled the scores only a minute into the second term. Now the Bulldogs were just hanging in, courtesy of a fine snap from Liam Picken. But not for long.
Rohan Bewick, who had a tremendous second quarter, read a ruck tap better and raced into goal. Redden popped through his second. Dayne Zorko, the most exciting presence on the ground by some margin, took one off a pack and, suddenly, the Lions were two goals up.
By the long break, it was 27 points after another three Brisbane goals. Rockliff, who'd been well held by Mitch Wallis, had the first. Brown starting to get some spring in his step, shrugged off Jordan Roughead on a lead and converted another beautiful pass from Bewick.
And Brisbane looked red-hot by the time Marcus Paparone kicked their seventh of the quarter, the exclamation mark on a brilliant passage of play in which Zorko chipped a beautiful pass out to Lewis Taylor, the impressive little man hitting it at full tilt and weighting his kick perfectly to his teammate near the top of the goalsquare.
The Lions' backline held up beautifully, Justin Clarke keeping Crameri out of the picture, Joel Patfull clever and creative, Pearce Hanley his lively rebounding self and scorer of a vital third-term goal. And a surprise packet was Stefan Martin in the ruck, who went hit-out for hit-out with All-Australian Will Minson, and managed to get the better of his more feted opponent around the ground as well.
Zorko was kept a lot quieter by Picken after half-time, and Mitch Wallis was also handy for the Bulldogs against the potentially dangerous Tom Rockliff. The result was that the Bulldogs managed to square the third term, and with two quick goals early in the last, threaten to come over the top.
But Brisbane's one goal of the last stanza - to Josh Green - was timely indeed. It made the clock an enemy as well for the home side, which also managed to create another for itself in its sloppiness near goal when victory was still possible.
Substitute Daniel Giansiracusa got the last goal of the game with 40 seconds left on the clock. Given the labour involved in most of the Bulldogs' goals, that wasn't going to be enough to conjure another two. Brisbane just got there in the end, but after the second quarter it played, it deserved to.