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Final destination: Dogs crush Crows to book September showdown

Highlights: Western Bulldogs v Adelaide The Bulldogs and Crows go head to head in round 23

ADELAIDE was effectively out of finals contention within two-and-a-half minutes of Sunday's last-round game at Ballarat beginning.

Charged with the ambitious requirement of thrashing the in-form Western Bulldogs by about 95 points to qualify for September, a pair of quick Bailey Dale goals made that even more improbable. 

The only interest from there was whether the Crows could do another aspirant, Hawthorn – a shock victor over West Coast in Perth on Saturday night – a favour and beat the Dogs by any margin. 

Twenty-four minutes in, Luke Beveridge's finals-bound side led a scoreless Adelaide by 40 points to leave the Hawks' slim hopes in tatters, and eventually won 18.13 (121) to 13.9 (87). 

Dale had four goals to half-time, finished with five and has 20 in his six matches since returning to the senior side. 

It always loomed as the likeliest result, with the streaking Bulldogs deservedly booking their first post-season berth since their fairytale premiership run from seventh place in 2016. 

They will start this year's series from the same position – and avoided becoming the first team since Hawthorn's triumphant 1978 side to miss the finals three straight seasons after winning the flag.

Greater Western Sydney, the Dogs' final hurdle in reaching the Grand Final three years ago, awaits them again in an elimination final in a fortnight's time. 

The Western Bulldogs destroyed the Giants by 10 goals only last week, and quickly ran the Crows off their feet on Sunday. 

DOGS CRUSH CROWS Full match coverage and stats

They benefited from first use of the stiff Ballarat breeze and easily overcame another lopsided hitout count, with Marcus Bontempelli, Jack Macrae and Josh Dunkley dominant in the clinches.

Bontempelli probably racked up maximum Brownlow Medal votes in his latest masterful performance, complemented by a series of laser-like, left-foot passes inside 50.

However, just as pleasing for the Dogs' faithful was the promise all over the field from the bountiful number of youth their team relies upon.

There was Patrick Lipinski's tackle that buried Jake Kelly, won him a free kick and subsequently delivered his team's sixth goal.

DAMAGING DOGS Luke Beveridge says Bulldogs have great momentum for finals

Aaron Naughton's desperation to keep the Sherrin inside the boundary at one stage in the second quarter, then chase it down as well, was magnificent. 

The West Australian's contested marking was on show, too. 

Rhylee West has clearly inherited his famous father Scott's courageousness – watch how he put his head over the ball in the first term – and Lewis Young, who's struggled in recent seasons, is back taking intercept marks.

Then there's Bailey Smith, who boasts breakneck speed and already makes the right decision more often than not. 

The storyline is just as strong, yet far less optimistic, for Don Pyke's Adelaide, which was horribly disappointing once more, ahead of an almost-certain veteran cleanout. 

Richard Douglas played his last game for the club, and it might also have been for Sam Jacobs, Hugh Greenwood, Eddie Betts and Alex Keath, to name just a few. 

One of the lasting memories of Douglas' final appearance – although he hopes to find a new AFL home – was Bontempelli all-too-easily sidestepping him, before nailing a brilliant first quarter goal. 

Some of Taylor Walker's contesting will leave him vulnerable for criticism despite him booting five goals, Bryce Gibbs was ineffectual, and there were some horrific turnovers from their teammates. 

A Luke Brown kick-in went straight to Lipinski; Daniel Talia did the same on a sideways kick in his defensive 50; and Wayne Milera – known for his kicking – missed Keath moments later and gave away a goal. 

Where some of the Crows' elder statesmen struggled, excluding big ball-winner Matt Crouch (47 disposals), there was a bright spot in teenager Chayce Jones. 

Last year's top-10 draft pick soared high to outmark Hayden Crozier and finally end the Crows' scoring drought late in the opening term and he kept plugging away.

The message was clear: Jones, Darcy Fogarty, Milera and co. need to be both the present and the future for a club that will likely go backwards before its next finals tilt. 

MEDICAL ROOM
Western Bulldogs: The Dogs' perfect day appeared to extend to the injury front.
Adelaide: David Mackay started half-time flat on his back receiving treatment on his hip/groin region, but played out the second half. Alex Keath (knee) hobbled off the field in pain late in the third term and didn't pass a three-quarter time fitness test. 

NEXT UP
The Bulldogs finish the season in seventh place and will travel interstate to face Greater Western Sydney in an elimination final. Sound familiar? Adelaide will sit out September for the second straight year since losing the 2017 Grand Final.

WESTERN BULLDOGS     6.5     9.8     14.11     18.13     (121)
ADELAIDE                      2.0     5.4     8.6     13.9     (87)

GOALS
Western Bulldogs: Dale 5, Lipinski 2, Lloyd 2, McLean 2, Schache 2, West, Bontempelli, English, Naughton, Macrae
Adelaide: Walker 5, Jones 2, Lynch 2, Knight 2, M.Crouch, Smith

BEST
Western Bulldogs: Bontempelli, Macrae, Dale, Dunkley, Hunter, Suckling, Johannisen
Adelaide: M.Crouch, Laird, Seedsman, Jones, Smith, Walker

INJURIES
Western Bulldogs: Nil
Adelaide: Keath (knee)

Reports: Nil

Umpires: Fisher, Nicholls, Williamson

Official crowd: 9560 at Mars Stadium