'Dogs battle breeze to put bite on Lions - Sports News - Fanatics - the world's biggest events

'Dogs battle breeze to put bite on Lions

By Roger Vaughan 11/09/2009 11:41:30 PM Comments (0)

The Western Bulldogs have scrapped their way through to an AFL preliminary final appointment against St Kilda, beating Brisbane by 51 points at the MCG.

Blustery conditions made turnovers routine in their Friday night semi-final, but the Bulldogs steadily regained form and showed more poise to win 16.11 (107) to 8.8 (56).

The Bulldogs will play minor premiers St Kilda next Friday night at the MCG.

It is the first time the 'Dogs have made successive preliminary finals since their losses to eventual premiers Adelaide in 1997-98.

Last year, the Bulldogs' season ended when they lost their preliminary final to Geelong.

Only 47,030 fans attended the game, but the AFL would have been happy with 45,000.

Brisbane staged a miracle comeback last week to win their elimination final against Carlton, but there would be no last-term heroics this time as Michael Voss' outstanding first season as coach ended.

The 'Dogs led by 37 points at three-quarter time - double Brisbane's score.

A long goal from Will Minson seven minutes into the final term and another seconds later from Shaun Higgins made the rest of the game a procession.

Star midfielder Adam Cooney dominated with 32 disposals and Ryan Griffen recovered from a poor qualifying final against Geelong to be among their best, although he was off the field during the last term.

Mitch Hahn led the goalscoring with four.

Daniel Cross and Liam Picken had vital shutdown roles, with Cross restricting Lions star Simon Black to only 14 possessions and Picken kept Justin Sherman quiet.

The Lions only trailed by 24 points at 20 minutes into the third term and another goal might have made the last term interesting.

But Nathan Eagleton and Hahn kicked their third goal apiece to give the 'Dogs a comfortable buffer at the last change.

There were several heavy hits, with Lions defender Ashley McGrath crunched by two Bulldogs players early in the third term.

McGrath needed assistance to leave the field, but he returned later in the quarter.

Bulldogs Jason Akermanis and Brad Johnson suffered big hits late in the half, but stayed on the ground.

Akermanis had fluffed a couple of the chances in the second term before Jed Adcock slung him to the ground with a vicious tackle.

Akermanis' head hit the turf, but he was able to keep playing.

Seconds later, Lions defender Daniel Merrett crashed into the pack as Johnson went to mark and the impact winded the 'Dogs captain.

The Lions had as many scoring shots as the Bulldogs in the opening quarter, but the Bulldogs kicked four goals and Brisbane squandered their chances at the city end for six behinds.

From there, Brisbane were always under pressure.

It took until 15 minutes into the second term for either side to goal at the city end, when Hahn had a set shot from 20m.

Lions captain Jonathan Brown kicked three goals and was Brisbane's best with 15 marks.

Brisbane coach Michael Voss said the Lions were on the back foot after scoring 0.6 in the first term.

"Finals is about chances and taking your opportunities, we had our opportunities in the first quarter," he said.

"I thought we had a good structure, we were competing pretty well, we were getting our fair share of the ball coming into our forward 50.

"I just think that they made the most of their opportunities and we squandered ours a fair bit." He said his side had not coped well with the windy conditions, giving up too many goals from skill errors in defence.

Voss said the Bulldogs also did better at winning contested ball, which he said was always a key in finals.

"Everything we do and what we do our preparation for is to survive this occasion and we failed it, so at the moment we've got plenty of work to do," he said.

Bulldogs coach Rodney Eade said Griffen had suffered a corked calf when he accidentally kicked himself.

He added Griffen would be ready for next Friday night's game, saying "he'll be fine ... he's not a real concern."

Eade praised his team's performance, saying their work rate was first-class.

"Across the board, the courage and the commitment of the players was fantastic - every key indicator, we won easily," he said.

"Perhaps if it wasn't windy, it (the margin) might have been a few goals more, we dominated for most of the night."

Despite the tough conditions, Eade's one minor criticism of his players was that their disposal could have been cleaner.

"I know it was windy, but the number of fumbles and dropped chest marks was frustrating in the first half," he said.

"I don't think the game is going to be a on highlight reel, but having said we persisted very well."

Eade praised players such as Daniel Giansiracusa, Hahn and Griffen for the way they lifted after struggling against the Cats.

He also acknowledged Cross and Picken for their crucial performances.

Eade is also optimistic ahead of the preliminary final, saying they are ahead of how they were playing this time last year.

"Going into this week, we'll have a bit more maturity and confidence about ourselves," he said

The Saints beat them twice during the season, but Eade is unfussed.

"You can learn from it, but those results don't count for much now - everyone is on equal footing," he said.

"We certainly deserve to be there, we'll certainly give it our best shot."

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