ON FRIDAY night, we saw close to the best of the Western Bulldogs in their 42-point hammering of Essendon, just five days after they produced some of their worst.
The Dogs bounced back from last Sunday's 52-point mauling by Carlton to hand the high-flying Bombers just their second loss of the season, 14.9 (93) to 7.9 (51), at Metricon Stadium.
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With Tim English and Marcus Bontempelli dominating in the centre square, it was one-way traffic after quarter-time as Luke Beveridge's men kicked 11 goals to one in a span that stretched from late in the first quarter to early in the last.
Jack Macrae (29 touches), Lachie Hunter (26) and Tom Liberatore (22) also had big nights in the middle of the ground.
BOMBERS v BULLDOGS Full match coverage and stats
It was the Bulldogs' fourth win from five matches and puts them right back in the thick of the finals hunt.
On the back of bullying the Bombers – minus suspended midfielder Dylan Shiel – around the contest, the Dogs had the ball camped in their front half for much of the night.
They transferred the ball quickly and Mitch Wallis (three goals), Matt Suckling and debutant Cody Weightman (two each) were part of a diverse forward line that made the most of their chances.
For the high-flying Bombers it was a reality check for a team whose only previous loss was by a point to the Blues.
Essendon too often had to rely on its under-siege defensive unit to generate most of their run.
Andrew McGrath (24 disposals, six clearances) battled hard in the midfield for the Bombers and Jayden Laverde (two goals) gave them a handy target up forward in the first half.
The rise and rise of Tim English
The Bulldogs' ruckman took another huge stride in his development. Up against Essendon journeyman Andrew Phillips, English was the best player afield as he not only excelled around the contest, but had a major influence around the ground. He lost the hitout count, but the 22-year-old's ability to follow up led him to career-highs in disposals (22) and clearances (six), as well as kicking a goal. His over-the-shoulder centre bounce tap to Bontempelli (23 touches and three goal assists) that led to a Matt Suckling goal in the first quarter was a thing of beauty.
Weightman the wizard
Bulldogs debutant Cody Weightman joined the 'goal with your first kick in footy' club in jaw-dropping fashion. Firstly, the 19-year-old got the ball late in the first quarter courtesy of a powerhouse pack mark amongst four bodies. Secondly, and somehow more spectacularly, he navigated the tight angle in the right forward pocket by calmly slotting the checkside 30m away from outside the boundary line. Truly one of the great first goals.
Red and black nightmare repeats
Essendon must dread playing the Bulldogs. Last season they conceded an incomprehensible 21 straight goals when the teams met in round 21. While this loss was not in the same neighbourhood as that 104-point massacre, it had some eerie similarities. When Will Snelling completed a clever snap in the first quarter for the Bombers' third, his team hit the lead and looked good. That's where the fun ended. The Dogs kicked 11 of the next 12 goals to completely dominate the contest. Essendon could barely win control of the football, let alone turn the tide.
ESSENDON 3.3 4.3 4.6 7.9 (51)
WESTERN BULLDOGS 4.1 6.4 11.7 14.9 (93)
Essendon: Laverde 2, Hooker, McDonald-Tipungwuti, Smith, Snelling, Zaharakis
Western Bulldogs: Wallis 3, Suckling 2, Weightman 2, Bruce, Dale, English, Johannisen Lipinski, Richards, Vandermeer
Essendon: McGrath, Saad, Hurley, Parish
Western Bulldogs: English, Bontempelli, Liberatore, Macrae, Smith, Daniel
Western Bulldogs: Nil