The Western Bulldogs have shaken up the Australian Football League with a scintillating 47-point win over an injury-hampered Richmond Tigers on Saturday night.
In front of around 36,000 fans at Marvel Stadium the Bulldogs, led by vice-captain Marcus Bontempelli’s superb 27 disposals and three goals, caused a major upset against the recently successful Richmond.
The Bulldogs held sway over the contest from the first bounce but an inaccurate first quarter of goal kicking meant they were behind by five points at quarter time.
Following a brutal four goal to one second quarter, the Bulldogs gained the lead and never relinquished it thanks to a dominant five goal, nine contested mark game from Aaron Naughton. The second-year player enjoyed his best game for the club, beating an under-manned Richmond defence who struggled to cope without injured defenders David Astbury and Alex Rance.
Caleb Daniel was also influential for the Bulldogs. His role across half-back worked to perfection as he amassed 36 touches. Josh Dunkley (35 touches), Jack Macrae (36 touches) and Hayden Crozier (28 touches) were all vital for the Bulldogs in the midfield, with captain Easton Wood, Jackson Trengrove and 2016 Norm Smith Medallist Jason Johanissen brilliant in defence. Former Tiger Sam Lloyd played well against his old side, kicking a goal to rub salt into the wound.
But the second quarter was the unveiling of the curtains for Naughton, who kicked three of his goals in the quarter and out-played Richmond’s key defenders Dylan Grimes and Noah Balta. Despite being in a form slump after a disappointing match against Fremantle in round six, Naughton was the focal point of the attack, allowing Billy Gowers to take a lesser defender.
Bulldogs coach Luke Beveridge enjoyed his 100th game as leader of the club, with the surprise victory breaking the Bulldogs’ four game losing streak. Best on ground went to Bontempelli, who took control of the match from the first quarter with a brilliant set shot goal to open the scoring.
Richmond face a number of concerns, with superstar midfielder Dustin Martin and dynamic forward duo Josh Caddy and Tom Lynch being extremely quiet. Instead, the hard work was done by Toby Nankervis, who battled aggressively with impressive Bulldog ruckman Tim English. Richmond young gun Sydney Stack was again eye-catching in bursts – with a solid bump on Caleb Daniel alongside other highlights capping off a solid few games. Other than that, the Tigers had no one play particularly well. The Bulldogs ran riot with a nine goal to three second half that opened the margin. Balta provided the one bright moment for Richmond, as an athletic running goal slightly covered up some of his errors made whilst playing on Naughton.
Richmond will be concerned about more possible injuries to Daniel Rioli and Nick Vlastuin, who both came off for extended periods of time with thigh and leg concerns respectively. The Bulldogs didn’t have any injury complaints after their superb win, yet Billy Gowers may face match review scrutiny after accidentally head-butting Grimes whilst on the ground.
Next week, the Bulldogs will look to consolidate their good form with a win against Brisbane in Ballarat, while Richmond face a daunting task against Fremantle at Optus Stadium.
3 – Marcus Bontempelli (WB)
2 – Aaron Naughton (WB)
1 – Caleb Daniel (WB)