WESTERN Bulldogs coach Luke Beveridge has lamented his side's first-half "disaster" against Richmond, describing his side's performance as "sub-par".
The Dogs were dismantled by Richmond early in Wednesday night's clash at Metricon, trailing by 41 points at the main break. They stemmed the bleeding after half-time and were even for scoring thereafter, but the Tigers had set up the win when it mattered.
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The Bulldogs had won five of their previous six games leading up to the clash but Beveridge said his team "hadn't been playing that well", with the defeat to Richmond signaling their struggles.
"We've strung some wins together but tonight our first half was obviously a little bit of a disaster unfortunately," he said post-game.
"To Richmond's credit their intensity and their willingness to cover the ground, and to put us under pressure, which we invited, [was strong].
"I was pleased that the boys were almost able to halve that second half when the game had really gone south, so we've just got to move on.
"It's a sub-par performance from us, even though as I said I don't think we've been playing extremely well anyway. But in this new series of games we need to make sure we move on pretty quickly."
The Dogs face League-leaders Port Adelaide and Brisbane in the next two games during the AFL's condensed fixture block and Beveridge said his side needed to start to click.
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"We haven't been necessarily braining them, we've been finding a way to win. There's no significant chemistry in our side at the moment which we're searching for," he said.
It was a brighter night for Richmond counterpart Damien Hardwick, who believes the Tigers might have found their new Alex Rance after the starring performance of young defender Noah Balta.
Balta was among the Tigers' best in their dominant display to open round nine, with the rising backman enjoying a strong patch of form in his third AFL season.
The 20-year-old has been a revelation since returning to the backline in the absence of injured dual premiership player David Astbury and was influential against the Bulldogs with 15 disposals and four marks.
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Hardwick said Balta reminded him of the Tigers' retired champion full-back Rance, who pulled the pin on his stellar career at the end of last year.
"I thought he was terrific. He's been very good throughout the year, he probably [only] had one down game," Hardwick said.
"We think for us to be a really good side he has to play. He's just going to grow into the role and I'm loathe to say it, but he does remind me of a young Alex Rance.
"I look at the way he plays the game and he does some things that only players like him can do, and then he'll make a mistake like only him and Alex can do. He's a prodigious talent and we're really excited about what he's got to offer.
"He's got a lot of work to go, but we think he's starting to progress nicely."
Hardwick praised key forwards Jack Riewoldt and Tom Lynch for their improved performances, saying Riewoldt "is back", while complimented Trent Cotchin for his return from injury.
The Tigers will consider resting Cotchin for next Tuesday's clash with Brisbane or the following Saturday against Port Adelaide.