WESTERN BULLDOGS 5.4 9.5 11.9 15.10 (100) RICHMOND 2.4 3.4 9.6 15.8 (98)
Goals: Western Bulldogs: L Jones 3 D Giansiracusa 2 L Jong 2 S Crameri 2 A Cooney J Macrae J Stringer L Dahlhaus L Hunter S Higgins.
Richmond: J Riewoldt 4 B Griffiths 2 T Vickery 2 D Jackson D Martin J King N Gordon R Petterd S Grigg T Cotchin.
Best - Western Bulldogs: Macrae, Boyd, Liberatore, Minson, Cooney, Murphy. Richmond: Cotchin, Riewoldt, Jackson, Thomas, Conca, Martin.
Injuries: Western Bulldogs: J Roughead (shoulder).
Richmond: N Vlastuin (concussion). Reports: Nil.
Umpires: Matt Stevic, David Harris, Leigh Fisher.
Official Crowd: 31,724 at Etihad Stadium.
It went without saying - even before Saturday's game - that at 0-2, the Western Bulldogs needed a win. But deep in the final term against Richmond at Etihad Stadium, they needed one so much more.
It was a terrific effort from the Dogs, who ran harder, worked harder and stayed in front the whole afternoon. Well, virtually the whole afternoon. But having led from the four-minute mark of the first term, and by as much as 38 points, with less than three-and-a-half minutes remaining, almost unbelievably, the Dogs trailed.
Jack Macrae collected a game-high 30 possessions. Photo: Getty Images
|View Match Statistics|
|Players||Jones (3.0), Crameri (2.1), Giansiracusa (2.0), Jong (2.0), Hunter (1.2), Stringer (1.2), Cooney (1.1), Macrae (1.1), Dahlhaus (1.0), Higgins (1.0), Boyd (0.1), Griffen (0.1)||Scorers||Riewoldt (4.0), Vickery (2.2), Griffiths (2.0), Cotchin (1.2), Jackson (1.1), Gordon (1.0), Grigg (1.0), King (1.0), Martin (1.0), Petterd (1.0), Houli (0.1)|
Richmond, which could manage just three goals in the first half, booted a dozen in the second. The last of those, to Jack Riewoldt, his fourth after having barely touched the ball in the first half, put the Tigers in front. It was the sort of scenario that can crush the spirit of a young and emerging side, not just for a day two, but for a season.
Perhaps one of the Bulldogs' most experienced heads, Daniel Giansiracusa, recognised that, too. He'd come off the substitute's bench at three-quarter time and already provided a steadying goal as the Tigers crept within a kick. Now, engaged in a one-on-one battle with Brandon Ellis near goal, he'd be slung to the ground without the ball and awarded a free kick.
Just over two minutes remained, and the stadium seethed with anticipation. But as everyone seemed to pause for breath, Gia was off, playing on, reducing the tightest of angles, and delivering the final jab of what had been a pulsating final-round sparring match.
Luke Dahlhaus leads Bachar Houli and Brandon Ellis to the ball Photo: Getty Images
Without taking anything away from Richmond, which was awful for much of the game, a win to the Tigers would have been something of a steal. They'll have other days. But this was a big moment for Brendan McCartney's team. It showed discipline. Plenty of enterprise. And most significantly, the resilience to withstand the oncoming tide. A valuable lesson. And one earned along with the match points.
The Bulldogs had certainly made all the early running. They'd stuck resolutely to a one-on-one game, refusing to allow the Tigers any overlap or run. And when they won the ball in defence, they worked harder back towards their own goals, Richmond's trailing in their wake another sign Damien Hardwick's side wasn't on its game.
Richmond had the first goal on the board, but couldn't buy one thereafter. It took a Bulldog error, a misdirected handball from Tom Williams, to produce the second goal to Dustin Martin, and that was answered soon enough by the Dogs' Lin Jong. And by half-time, the Tigers would have only three. Trent Cotchin couldn't have done a lot more, with 13 disposals and seven clearances to the long break, but he had precious little help.
The Bulldogs, in contrast, had no shortage of runners jumping on board. Jack Macrae had accumulated 19 possessions to half-time. Old stager Matthew Boyd was nearly as prolific, Stewart Crameri covered plenty of territory up forward, Shaun Higgins turned back the clock a couple of years, and in defence, Dale Morris had given Riewoldt barely a sniff, the Coleman medallist with just one touch at the long break.
But Cotchin's consistency aside, it was Riewoldt who did as much as any Tiger to get his side going in the third term. He worked harder to get involved in play than he had during an at-times sulky looking first half.
Richmond had indeed looked more up for the fight as soon as the third quarter began, booting three of the first four goals of the term. Yet even then the Bulldogs remained resistant. Ty Vickery and substitute Nathan Gordon, on to replace the concussed Nick Vlastuin, brought the gap back to less than five goals. But from the next bounce, the Bulldogs went forward for Macrae to mark practically unopposed. If the Tigers' tyres suddenly had a little more air, that would have deflated them again.
Riewoldt created much of the spark that had been sorely missing for the much of the afternoon for the yellow-and-black. Two goals after strong marks late in the third term brought the Tigers back within striking range. The first of the last quarter reduced the gap to single figures. And his fourth, from right on the 50 with only minutes remaining, just about brought house down.
But having last week itself headed off an opponent after playing pacemaker for much of a game, this time Richmond found itself in the comeback position, and unfortunately for the Tigers, with a similar result for those cast in the respective roles.
The Western Bulldogs, in contrast, might have been cast for some time as one of the AFL's "can't buy a trick" teams had this one slipped away. One critical goal to a Bulldog favourite, and the script suddenly looks a lot different.