Bailey Smith celebrates a goal for Western Bulldogs against GWS Giants in round 22, 2022. Picture: AFL Photos

THE WESTERN Bulldogs' hopes and dreams of September action are still alive, for now and only just.

It seemed as straightforward as it could possibly come on Saturday; the Bulldogs simply had to beat Greater Western Sydney to stay in the hunt for finals.

And while they were made to scratch and claw for each of the four points gained, they did complete the all-important first part of the equation, the other being a win over Hawthorn next week.

BULLDOGS v GIANTS Full match coverage and stats

The Bulldogs were tested at every turn by a Giants side determined to play spoiler against their rivals.

After falling behind by four points at three-quarter time, Luke Beveridge's charges needed to respond and they did just enough in the final quarter to secure a season-saving five-point win.


Jamarra Ugle-Hagan had a cool head when it mattered, kicking the solitary goal of the final term to secure the 9.8 (62) to 8.9 (57) win and send the Bulldogs into ninth on the ladder, while adding another enthralling chapter to one of the game's burgeoning modern rivalries.

BATTERED AND BRUISED Bont plays through the pain as Dogs stay alive

In an emotionally-charged final quarter, wastefulness (1.6) and ill-discipline almost threatened to derail the Bulldogs' fightback as they squandered a number of golden opportunities and gave away two free kicks that resulted in shots on goal for the Giants - but the visitors failed to capitalise.


Now the fate of the Dogs rests in the hands of both Melbourne and Hawthorn; a win from either this weekend against Carlton and Richmond respectively will ensure the Bulldogs will still be in the hunt come the final round of the season, where they will take on the Hawks in Tasmania in another 'must win and hope' game.

Jack Macrae led the Bulldogs' possession getters with 31, while Bailey Dale (26 disposals, seven marks, seven score involvements) and Caleb Daniel (29 disposals, 527 metres gained) led the push from half-back. Bailey Smith was particularly important, too, ending the afternoon with 26 disposals and a big goal at a crucial stage of the third quarter. 

LADDER PREDICTOR Where will your club finish?

The undermanned Giants, on the other hand, will lose no admirers for their effort. Mark McVeigh's side came out with a plan to frustrate and dominate possession, but they were ultimately unable to close out the win after a particularly impressive third quarter where they booted five of their eight goals.

Stephen Coniglio (31 disposals, eight marks) and Josh Kelly (35 disposals, 12 marks, 600 metres gained) stood out for the Giants, while Harry Himmelberg's sensational move to defence continued with a 30-disposal, 12-mark outing.


GWS' intent was apparent from the off as they looked to essentially play keepings off (105-82 disposals and 48-23 marks at quarter-time). However, they were unable to turn their possession dominance into scores against the Bulldogs' defensive unit, who hit the Giants on the break and made them pay up to open up an 11-point quarter time lead.

The second term was nothing to write home about, either, with much of the play stuck between the arcs and scores, as a result, being at the premium.

GWS, however, managed to edge ahead momentarily off the back of a lovely goal from Jake Riccardi but a much-needed major from Tom Liberatore gave the Bulldogs back the advantage by four points at the major break.


From that point on, it was a game of momentum swings as the contest finally roared to life in an enthralling third quarter.

The Giants hit back first, booting the first two goals of the quarter to take the lead, before the Bulldogs finally found their rhythm and responded with four straight majors, headlined by a quickfire double from Bailey Williams to open up a game-high 15-point lead.


It seemed as though the Bulldogs might run away with it, but the Giants responded with three quick goals - including an incredible outside-of-the-foot banana from Lachie Keeffe - to take back the lead and hold a slender advantage heading into the final term.

In the end, the Bulldogs shone when the pressure was at fever pitch as Ugle-Hagan slotted the all-important winner to keep their hopes of a fourth-straight finals appearance alive.

Aleer shines
If it wasn't apparent already, Leek Aleer has a very bright future. In only his third senior game, the GWS rookie was brilliant in the defensive half up against a myriad of different opponents - tall and small - and performing those roles with aplomb in an eye-catching performance. The No.15 pick in last year's NAB AFL Draft complemented impressive performances from Sam Taylor, Harry Himmelberg, Nick Haynes and Callum Brown, with his aerial prowess a highlight. He also did some equally solid work when the ball hit the deck, including a huge tackle on Aaron Naughton at a crucial stage of the third term that yielded a free-kick.

Leek Aleer spoils Aaron Naughton during GWS's game against the Western Bulldogs in round 22, 2022. Picture: AFL Photos

The Baileys go bang
With the game and their season on the line, the Bulldogs finally found their swagger in a five-minute tidal wave headlined by the work of two of their Baileys. After Tim English kicked a much-needed goal, both Bailey Williams and Bailey Smith got to work, with the duo trading goals on the run - from basically the same spot on the ground - within the space of a little more than a minute to wrestle back the lead and send the crowd into raptures. Williams then added a second from a set-shot to extend their lead and cap off an impressive run from the home side.


Quiet first half
It was a goal-scoring feast when these two sides locked horns earlier in the year, with a combined 230 points scored, 127 of those in the first half. This time around, getting a shot on goal was like finding gold. Incredibly, the half-time aggregate score of 46 had been equalled inside the opening 25 minutes of the clash back in round 14, while the match totaltoday of 119 points was almost half the tally from their previous encounter back in June. 


WESTERN BULLDOGS                  3.0     4.1     8.2    9.8 (62)
GREATER WESTERN SYDNEY     1.1     3.3     8.6    8.9 (57)

Western Bulldogs: Williams 2, Naughton, English, Weightman, Dale, Liberatore, Smith, Ugle-Hagan
Greater Western Sydney: Riccardi 2, Hogan, Ward, Stein, Haynes, Hogan, Keeffe

Western Bulldogs: Dale, Macrae, Smith, Dunkley, English, Daniel, Bontempelli, Richards
Greater Western Sydney: Kelly, Coniglio, Himmelberg, Green, Ward, Whitfield, Haynes, Taylor, Perryman

Western Bulldogs: Liberatore (head)
Greater Western Sydney: Keeffe (thigh), Taylor (head), Aleer (head)

Western Bulldogs: Roarke Smith
Greater Western Sydney: Xavier O’Halloran (replaced Lachie Keeffe in fourth quarter)

Crowd: 18,301 at Marvel Stadium