Flag hopefuls face a Dog fight - Sports News - Fanatics - the world's biggest events

Flag hopefuls face a Dog fight

By Sam Lienert And Roger Vaughan 01/08/2010 07:32:07 PM Comments (0)

The Western Bulldogs have sent a strong reminder that Collingwood and Geelong are not the only AFL clubs playing like premiership contenders as finals approach.

While the Magpies will fight to keep reigning premiers Geelong out of top spot next Saturday night, the fourth-placed Bulldogs continued to stake their claim with a commanding 22.11 (143) to 10.12 (72) victory over North Melbourne at Etihad Stadium on Sunday.

Barry Hall booted seven goals, to draw level on 65 with Richmond's Jack Riewoldt in the race for the Coleman Medal, with two posters to Hall preventing him from taking the outright lead.

Daniel Giansiracusa put through five, while midfielder Matthew Boyd amassed 40 possessions, as the Bulldogs rammed home nine goals to two in the final term.

It continued the imposing form the Dogs showed in crushing top four rivals Fremantle by 82 points last weekend and gives them six victories from seven games, with their only loss in that time by three points to Hawthorn.

That form surge pleased coach Rodney Eade, although he said how the Bulldogs rated against their premiership rivals was academic at this stage.

"You could say we're favourites or fourth-favourites or fifth-favourites, it doesn't matter where we are," Eade said.

"It only matters when September comes and we play well, end of story.

"We're in the mix and we think we can compete with any team.

"We think the last seven games, it's been good, we're building some confidence and momentum.

"Things (that were) just a little bit off earlier in the year, we're just starting to get better."

He said the Cats remained the "benchmark", while the Magpies were "probably the best team this year", but the Bulldogs' current focus was on sewing up a top four berth and double chance.

Fifth-placed Fremantle kept the pressure on, with their 24.16 (160) to 13.7 (85) thrashing of arch-rival West Coast, set up by a 7.6 to 0.3 first quarter.

Richmond was Sunday's other winner, almost certainly ending Adelaide's finals hopes with a comeback 15.10 (100) to 11.14 (80) victory at the MCG.

The Dockers' win over West Coast kept them within percentage of the Bulldogs.

After sixth-placed Hawthorn's upset 13.14 (92) to 12.12 (84) loss to Port Adelaide at AAMI Stadium on Saturday, Fremantle appear the only team still capable of breaking into the four.

If they do, it might come at the expense of third-placed St Kilda, rather than the Dogs.

The Saints endured their third straight winless weekend, Friday night's 16.12 (108) to 11.9 (75) loss to Essendon coming after a thrashing by Collingwood and draw with Hawthorn.

Collingwood primed themselves for their big clash with the Cats with a commanding 15.15 (105) to 9.3 (57) thumping of Carlton at the MCG on Saturday, while Geelong clinically disposed of Sydney 20.5 (125) to 9.18 (72) at ANZ Stadium on Saturday night.

While those sides battle for top spot, Melbourne remain in the hunt for eighth after their hard-fought 11.8 (74) to 9.10 (64) win over Brisbane at the Gabba on Saturday night.

The Demons climbed to 10th, overtaking the Crows, and helped by the losses to Carlton (7th), Sydney (8th) and North Melbourne (9th), they are just six points from eighth spot.

Melbourne's chances are boosted by a kinder run home than those three sides.

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