Dogs skip away from brave Tigers
A five-goal final term has helped South Fremantle see off a strong challenge from Claremont to win the first-ever WAFL match at Centennial Stadium by 27 points in front of an official crowd of 2664 people on Saturday afternoon.
The Bulldogs kicked the opening goal of the contest through ruckman Brock Higgins after he was on the end of a 50m penalty and they never relinquished the lead from there but had to withstand several challenges from the Tigers.
After leading by 14 points at the first change the Tigers kicked the only two goals of the second quarter, a superb set shot from a tight angle after the half-time siren from veteran Ian Richardson getting his side within a point.
There were plenty of momentum swings in the third stanza but after the Bulldogs extended the buffer to double figures, the Tigers came again and when forward Tom Lee slotted his third goal on the verge of three-quarter time it was back to a two-point game.
The start of the final term was going to be critical and it was the Bulldogs who seized the moment in the fading light as they booted the first three goals of the term, kickstarted by livewire Brandon Donaldson.
Matthew Parker crumbled well to push the margin to 14 points before the game was halted for several minutes after Tigers’ Keifer Yu suffered a severe head knock and had neck spasms, and lay motionless on the ground until he was stretchered off and taken to hospital.
Soon after the resumption Bulldogs forward Blaine Johnson launched a long bomb to push the margin beyond 20 points and his side went on to claim victory, 12.13 (85) to 8.10 (58).
Hard-working inside midfielder Shane Hockey was superb for the winners with 31 disposals and seven inside 50s to set up the Bulldogs third straight win while Donaldson was busy throughout kicking two majors to go with 24 touches.
Former Fremantle Dockers defender Nic Suban was terrific as well, especially when pushed into the midfield in the final term, while Higgins collected 47 hit-outs and a goal to also have a strong influence.
Bulldogs coach Todd Curley was impressive with his side’s final-quarter response after being challenged throughout the regional clash.
“I was happy with first and the last,” Curley said.
“The first was pretty good but we didn’t capitalise on the scoreboard.
“The second and third quarters were bit of a grind, their pressure was good and they played pretty well but to our boys’ credit we had a few that had been down and they stood up.
“Our last quarter was pretty pleasing.”
Defender Haydn Busher was terrific down back, keeping Bulldogs star Ben Saunders to one goal while gathering 22 possessions and nine marks, while key midfield duo Kane Mitchell (33 disposals) and Jye Bolton (32) worked tirelessly at the stoppages.
Former Royals junior Morgan Davies, one of four Great Southern products playing for the Tigers, tagged Katanning’s Haiden Schloithe, the reigning Sandover medallist, limiting him to 12 touches, but he still managed to kick three goals. Midfielder Jared Hardisty and ruckman Oliver Eastland also had an impact for the Tigers.
“We definitely gave ourselves a massive chance at three quarter time,” Tigers coach Darren Harris said.
“We knew we were playing quality opposition and in that last quarter the first 10 minutes would be really important.
“They kicked two goals and think they won contested ball there for one stage 9-1 — and that was sort of was the difference in the game.
“We probably weren’t efficient enough or strong enough in that 10 minutes after three-quarter-time but I was really happy with the bravery of our boys, they continued to fight hard to try and win the game.”
On the local front for the Tigers, former Railways forward Matt Palfrey was solid in the front half with 17 possessions, seven marks and five inside 50s but missed two shots on goal.
Davies had 15 touches and seven tackles in his entertaining tussle with Schloithe while Railways junior Beau Maister had eight disposals and five marks and former Railways midfielder Bailey Bennett finished with six disposals.
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