THE WESTERN Bulldogs have kicked off their premiership defence with a hard-fought 14-point win over a gallant Collingwood at the MCG on Friday night.
In the end the Bulldogs' versatility and star power was too much for the Magpies, who relied heavily on the brilliance of skipper Scott Pendlebury and lionhearted efforts from Steele Sidebottom and Adam Treloar.
Bulldogs star Tom Liberatore was crucial in evening up the battle inside the contest, laying 14 tackles, and Marcus Bontempelli's class was telling with two goals exactly when the Bulldogs needed them most.
Coll v WB: Full match details and statistics
The Bulldogs eventually ran out winners, 15.10 (100) to 12.14 (86).
After the Bulldogs kicked the opening four goals the Pies worked their way back into the game through the brilliance of Alex Fasolo, who kicked three goals late in the second quarter.
Collingwood then hit the front through a brilliant Treloar goal early in the second half and looked to have the momentum.
However, the Bulldogs, led by the silky Robert Murphy, lifted to kicked five unanswered goals to extinguish the challenge.
Bulldogs coach Luke Beveridge was pleased to escape with the win.
"Collingwood were very, very good in tight and definitely beat us around the source, so we had to find a way," Beveridge said.
"Our efficiency was better than it normally is forward of centre, which is great to see, but they put on a bit of pressure and it was good to hold sway at the end."
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Murphy worked in tandem with Jason Johannisen switching back and forth from defence to attack to confuse the Magpies.
Johannisen kicked two goals and Lachie Hunter was also elusive with three goals and 15 uncontested possessions.
It was the Bulldogs’ sharpness in space that proved the difference.
They moved the ball from end to end repeatedly to kick goals over the back as Collingwood tried to exert forward pressure.
Collingwood kept coming, but the four-goal margin at three-quarter time was too much for the Magpies to overhaul.
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Buckley was disappointed but he remained positive after the game.
"There was a lot to like," Buckley said.
"Our use inside forward 50 was not ideal and they were able to get it out of our forward line and score a little too easily as well."
Former Pie Travis Cloke kicked one huge goal in the first quarter to silence the loud boos coming from Collingwood supporters, but Ben Reid defeated him on the night.
Magpie midfielder Travis Varcoe was reported after cleaning up Luke Dahlhaus at a centre bounce and will be lucky to avoid suspension.
Collingwood faces a huge test next Thursday night against Richmond, but showed it has the capacity to match the Tigers, while the Bulldogs will unveil the flag against Sydney next week.
Collingwood: A virus to James Aish saw the Magpies turn to Chris Mayne as a late inclusion. He settled the nerves with a long, important goal early in the second quarter to arrest the Bulldogs’ momentum. Tried hard and could improve at the Magpies. Will Hoskin-Elliott lacked defensive pressure but showed his class when he had the football in his hands. He ended the game with 22 disposals and a goal and played well after quarter-time. Henry Schade worked hard in defence but a fumble at a crucial time in the third quarter was costly, allowing Bontempelli to goal.
Western Bulldogs: Although he wore a different jumper, it was the same Travis Cloke who arrived at the MCG. Kicked a brilliant, long goal to silence the booing Magpie fans late in the first quarter. He tackled hard and his effort was as good as ever, but he did his job and little more.
Western Bulldogs: Dale Morris suffered a leg injury late in the game. "He's a bit sore. We'll have to work out what is going on there. [The medical team] need to assess him further. I'm not really sure whether it's ankle or knee, or whether it's both. He seemed to twist both," Beveridge said.
The Western Bulldogs unveil their premiership flag against last year's Grand Final opponent, the Sydney Swans, at Etihad Stadium on Friday night. Collingwood will face a confident Richmond in a must-win encounter at the MCG on Thursday night.
COLLINGWOOD 1.5 7.9 9.11 12.14 (86)
WESTERN BULLDOGS 5.1 9.1 14.6 15.10 (100)
Collingwood: Fasolo 3, Sidebottom 2, Pendlebury 2, White, Mayne, Treloar, Goldsack, Hoskin-Elliott
Western Bulldogs: Hunter 3, Johannisen 2, Bontempelli 2, Picken 2, M.Boyd, Stringer, Cloke, Liberatore, Crameri, McLean
Collingwood: Pendlebury, Treloar, Sidebottom, Adams, Fasolo, Reid
Western Bulldogs: Dahlhaus, Liberatore, Bontempelli, Johannisen, Hunter, Murphy, Boyd
Collingwood: James Aish (virus) replaced in the selected side by Chris Mayne,
Western Bulldogs: Dale Morris (right leg)
Reports: Travis Varcoe reported for rough conduct in the first term.
Umpires: Deboy, Kamolins, Schmitt
Official crowd: 66,254 at the MCG