THE WESTERN Bulldogs have maintained their place at the top of the AFL ladder and moved one step closer to a first minor premiership with an impressive 49-point victory over Adelaide at Mars Stadium on Saturday afternoon.
It was a five-goal opening quarter against a stiff breeze that set the Bulldogs on their way, as the ladder leaders showed their class to register the 15.15 (105) to 8.8 (56) triumph in the Victorian city of Ballarat.
BULLDOGS v CROWS Full match coverage and stats
The Bulldogs dominated total disposals (374-330), clearances (44-35) and easily won the inside 50 count (65-40), using their superior class and experience to cope with the windy conditions best and clinch a 15th win for the season.
With skipper Marcus Bontempelli held to a season-low 15 disposals, it was left to the likes of Caleb Daniel (32 touches), Bailey Dale (31) and the ever-consistent Jackson Macrae (31) to fill the void.
The Bulldogs had 12 different goalkickers in a strong team effort, with spearhead Josh Bruce, No.1 draft pick Jamarra Ugle-Hagan and rejuvenated defensive forward Jason Johannisen managing multiple goals with two each.
The Crows battled hard throughout, but the gulf in class between the two sides was clearly evident apart from a period during the opening 15 minutes of the game when the visitors booted three of the first five goals.
Skipper Rory Sloane (26 disposals), in-form midfielder Rory Laird (24) and former Lion Ben Keays (22) won plenty of the ball, but there were too many passengers for the Crows who fell to their 13th loss of the campaign.
Veteran forward Taylor Walker and young tall Elliott Himmelberg tried hard to boot two goals apiece, while youngster Chayce Jones was subbed out of the game during the third term with a corked quad and was replaced by veteran David Mackay.
Bont unlikely for Brownlow night
Bulldogs skipper Marcus Bontempelli kicked the goal of the day in the fourth quarter and did some other eye-catching things to play his part in the victory, but it's unlikely his name will be read out on Brownlow night when votes from this game are revealed. Trying to guess how the umpires see a game of footy is generally fraught with danger, but the Dogs had a handful of players who performed better than their inspirational captain on this occasion.
Time for young talls to step up
There's no doubt Taylor Walker and Tom Lynch have been gallant warriors over the years for the Crows, but it's time for the likes of Elliott Himmelberg and Darcy Fogarty to combine with Riley Thilthorpe and fulfill on their untapped potential. Himmelberg and Fogarty once again showed glimpses of what they are capable of by combining for three goals and seven contested marks against the Dogs, but the challenge for this duo remains on finding some consistency and being able to perform at this level week in and week out.
Soothing Saturday afternoon in Ballarat
With the uncertainty surrounding the weekend due to the snap lockdown in Queensland, there was something slightly soothing about this old-fashioned clash on a Saturday afternoon at a rural suburban venue in Ballarat. There was a howling breeze blowing across the ground that is rarely seen in the modern era and car horns were clearly audible from a host of vehicles watching on from behind the fence. While it would have been great to have had a decent crowd cheering on, there were some signs of normality in what is currently an ever-changing world we live in.
WESTERN BULLDOGS 5.3 9.9 10.11 15.15 (105)
ADELAIDE 3.3 4.4 5.6 8.8 (56)
Western Bulldogs: Bruce 2, Johannisen 2, Ugle-Hagan 2, Daniel, English, Liberatore, Naughton, Garcia, Hunter, Dale, Bontempelli, Weightman
Adelaide: Himmelberg 2, Walker 2, Fogarty, Lynch, Rowe, Murphy
Western Bulldogs: Dale, Macrae, English, B.Smith, Daniel, Schache
Adelaide: Sloane, Keays, Doedee, Himmelberg, Smith, O'Brien
Western Bulldogs: Nil
Adelaide: Jones (corked quad), Himmelberg (knee)
Western Bulldogs: Lipinski (unused)
Adelaide: Mackay (replaced Jones)