Highlights: Western Bulldogs v West Coast
The Bulldogs and Eagles clash in round 18
Luke Dahlhaus and Tom Liberatore were influential in the Bulldogs win
THE WESTERN Bulldogs have feasted on a wounded West Coast team, all but ending the Eagles' slim finals hopes with a 22-point win at Etihad Stadium on Sunday.
Led by senior trio Adam Cooney, Ryan Griffen and Bob Murphy, the Bulldogs rediscovered their bite and won their fifth game for the season: 16.15 (111) to 13.11 (89).
The result left West Coast three games adrift of eighth placed Port Adelaide and all but out of the finals race having been touted as premiership fancies pre-season.
Compounding the pain was yet another injury, with in-form midfielder Chris Masten suffering an ankle injury and taking no part in the game after half-time.
The Bulldogs played some of the sharpest football of their season, running tirelessly and using the ball efficiently to outgun their more experienced opponents.
Cooney, who finished with 30 possessions, was at his electrifying best in a timely performance that could prove a circuit breaker in his ongoing contract negotiations.
Murphy (29 and one goal) was the architect with his precise ball use, floating between half-back and half-forward and barely wasting a possession, while Griffen (30) had the better of opponent Scott Selwood (23).
Luke Dahlhaus and Jarrad Grant kicked four and three goals respectively.
"We've probably been building for a few weeks. I think all of us have felt we hadn't got enough reward for the hard work we were putting in.
"There were times today where those young guys just got a hand in, or made a tackle, or slowed the opposition down or knocked the ball out.
"It was a good all-round effort today. It was a good win for our club."
The Bulldogs set their win up with hard work at the coalface, winning the clearances (37-34), contested possessions (143-127) and tackles (63-61).
Tom Liberatore finished with a career-high 12 tackles to go with his 29 possessions in another strong performance for the favourite son in his 50th game.
Mitch Wallis was also influential in the midfield battles, moving onto West Coast clearance specialist Matt Priddis in the third quarter and keeping him to two possessions for the term.
The Bulldogs subsequently won the clearances 12-6 in the third quarter as the momentum shifted.
The Eagles left star players Nic Naitanui (groin soreness), Darren Glass (soreness) and Mark LeCras (foot) at home.
Midfielders Luke Shuey (hamstring), Matt Rosa (back) and Daniel Kerr, who wasn't selected after two WAFL matches, were also missing.
"We let them score too easily I thought, and from some crucial errors that allowed them easy scores."
Andrew Gaff (31 possessions) and Dean Cox (21 and 26 hit-outs) fought hard for West Coast, while Mark Hutchings (26 and six tackles) continued to make the most of his second chance at AFL level.
Josh Kennedy (three goals) and Jack Darling (two) looked dangerous when the ball came their way, but it wasn't enough as the curtains closed on the Eagles' forgettable season.
An ankle injury to Chris Masten made the Eagles' job all the harder. Picture: AFL Media
WESTERN BULLDOGS 3.3 7.7 12.10 16.14 (111)
WEST COAST 4.4 7.6 10.8 13.11 (89)
Western Bulldogs: Dahlhaus 4, Dickson 3, Grant 3, Addison 2, Boyd, Cooney, Giansiracusa, Murphy
West Coast: Hill 3, Kennedy 3, Cripps 2, Darling 2, Wellingham 2, Dalziell
Western Bulldogs: Murphy, Cooney, Liberatore, Griffen, Dahlhaus, Grant, Minson, Stevens
West Coast: Gaff, Hutchings, Wellingham, Cox, Selwood, Kennedy
Western Bulldogs: Nil
West Coast: Masten (ankle)
Western Bulldogs: Daniel Giansiracusa replaced by Jackson Macrae in the fourth quarter
West Coast: Chris Masten replaced by Cale Morton in the third quarter
Umpires: Wenn, Foot, Fisher
Official crowd: 17, 019 at Etihad Stadium