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AFLW match report: Bulldogs lock in GF spot

AFLW Highlights: Bulldogs v Melbourne The Bulldogs and Demons clash in Round 7 of the AFLW
Brooke Lochland celebrates her match-winner - AFLW,Western Bulldogs,Melbourne Demons
Brooke Lochland celebrates her match-winner

A GOAL inside the last two minutes has propelled the Western Bulldogs into the NAB AFLW Grand Final.

The Bulldogs snatched a two-point victory from equally gallant Melbourne in a stirring struggle at VU Whitten Oval last night.

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AFLW leading goalkicker Brooke Lochland saved her best until last when she wheeled onto the left foot and fired through the decisive goal from 20m with 1.26 left on the game clock.

The 5.3 (33) to 4.7 (31) final score ensured the top Dogs will host the season decider next Saturday afternoon while the Demons were eliminated from Grand Final calculations.

AFLW: Who can make the Grand Final?

It seemed Melbourne would upset the ladder leaders when Kate Hore converted a diving mark with a straight shot into the wind midway through the last quarter to grab back the lead in the seesawing contest.

But the Bulldogs used the wind at their backs to keep working the ball forward. And Lochland, who had a quiet night by her standards, came to the rescue.

WATCH: Lochland sends the Dogs into the Grand Final

 

Melbourne was left the rue the inability to hit the scoreboard with each of its turns with the aid of a strong northerly wind blowing directly down the oval.

When quick-thinking Katherine Smith somehow found space in a large pack of players to snap a goal from close range early in the third term, it was the Demons' second success to the scoring end.

WATCH: Smith converts for the Dees

  The Demons were restricted with one less on the interchange bench for virtually the entire game after midfielder Sarah Lampard was carried off with a right knee injury early in the first term. 

Melbourne should have made more productive use of the breeze after captain Daisy Pearce won the toss and kicked to the southern end.

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The Demons controlled the ball for long periods of that opening term, but had only one goal to show for the lopsided 11-2 inside 50 advantage.

Richelle Cranston's long shot from a free was Melbourne's only reward for the hard work on the quarter-time siren.

AFLW: Latest news, fixture and results here

The Bulldogs would have been satisfied with their defensive work, despite being kept scoreless in the first term.

And the home team set to work with the breeze at their backs at the start of the second quarter.

With midfielder Ellie Blackburn and Emma Kearney leading the charge, the Dogs put enormous pressure on Melbourne's backline.

The Demons paid a price for sloppy tackles as Kearney booted the Dogs' opening goal before returning skipper Katie Brennan converted from only 20m.

WATCH: Kearney's thumping kick gets the Dogs rolling

 

When Deanna Berry goaled on the run, the Bulldogs had opened up a handy break in the tight contest.

WATCH: Berry's sweet finish

 

In a rare foray forward into the breeze, a string of Demon passes found Karen Paxman on the lead for the first goal to the northern end, a vital reply that kept this virtual preliminary final very much alive.

It was a fitting climax to the season with the lead swapped several times and the result hanging in the balance right up to the final siren as exhausted players threw themselves into the contests in a bid to set up or convert the decisive play. 

WHAT CRUEL LUCK
Unlucky midfielder Sarah Lampard reflected another near-miss season for Melbourne. Struck down by a hamstring in the pre-season, Lampard had to sit out the home and away rounds until finally getting back for the last one against the Western Bulldogs. And she will be sent for medical scans on her right knee after being helped off the ground midway through the opening quarter. "I hope it's not the worst for her. She has been put through the wringer this season and we'll have to wait on the results," Demons coach Mick Stinear said. Stinear refuted any suggestion the restrictions on the interchange bench for more than three quarters was a contributing factor to the narrow defeat. "Karen Paxman played 100 per cent game time. Players like that absorb the workload and her game was extraordinary. It made it harder (one down on the bench) but it certainly wasn't an excuse," he said.

HISTORY IN THE MAKING
The Doggies' women's team have already created a slice of club history for themselves - it's the first time a men's or women's team from the Whitten Oval has finished top of the ladder after the home and away season. "They don't hand us the cup for that. We want to put our hands around the big bowl," coach Paul Groves said. Groves said he didn't even know what opponent would face his players by winning their way into next week's AFLW Grand Final. "We were so focused on tonight. I suppose I better go and watch tomorrow's game (Collingwood-Adelaide)," he said.

WOULD LOVE TO REWIND THAT ONE
It's such a fine line in sport between being hailed as a champion or a chump. Melbourne so easily could have been celebrating another brilliant Aliesha Newman solo goal and anticipating a Grand Final appearance. Newman, who posted an application for Goal of the Year with a three-bounce pearler in the second-round win against Carlton, set up a repeat opportunity in the third quarter. The lively Demon forward burst clear, took three bounces again and ran within 10m of the goal line. Alas, the attempted dribble kick slewed the wrong side of the goalpost for what would eventually be a costly miss.

GOT THE JOB DONE
Young Melbourne defender Anna Teague was handed a massive task to play on returning Bulldogs captain Katie Brennan. It seemed ominous when Brennan was left one-out with the elevated Demons rookie inside the 50m arc in the first quarter. But the talented and experienced Brennan had to work hard for her kicks, finishing with one goal from a holding free kick in the second quarter. 

SAY WHAT?
"It probably hasn't sunk in yet. I just spoke to the girls about getting into a Grand Final is an achievement, but the next step is to get the cup in their hands next Saturday." - Western Bulldogs coach Paul Groves. 

"They are shattered. I'm disappointed for the group, they put so much work into it, just their commitment to get fitter, faster and stronger. A lot of them have taken time off work. The players' and staff's high level of commitment has been outstanding." - Melbourne coach Mick Stinear. 

WESTERN BULLDOGS     0.0     3.2     3.2     5.3     (33)
MELBOURNE                       1.1     2.1     3.7     4.7     (31)

GOALS
Western Bulldogs: Kearney, Brennan, Berry, Lochland, Conti
Melbourne: Cranston, Paxman, Smith, Hore 

BEST
Western Bulldogs: Kearney, Blackburn,  Bruton, Spark, Conti, Birch
Melbourne: Paxman, Smith, L Pearce, Downie, O'Dea, Jakobsson 

INJURIES
Western Bulldogs: Nil
Melbourne: Lampard (knee) 

Umpires: Mirable Dore, Johanson

Official crowd: 7593 at VU Whitten Oval