HAWTHORN has caused a major boilover and dealt a massive blow to the Western Bulldogs’ top two hopes with a stunning 27-point win in Launceston on Saturday.
A Hawks outfit missing midfield stars Jaeger O’Meara and James Worpel overwhelmed their more fancied opponents, adapting to the windy Tasmanian conditions perfectly to win 9.10 (64) to 5.7 (37).
Daniel Howe was dominant for the Hawks with 34 disposals, 1.1 and 717 metres gained, while Jacob Koschitzke was a presence up forward with 2.1 and six marks.
In wet and blustery conditions early, both sides struggled to score in what developed into a scrappy affair.
Cody Weightman finally kicked the first – and only – goal of the opening quarter in the seventeenth minute after the Hawks gave away a costly free kick in the forward pocket.
The second term belonged to the Hawks, whose unrelenting pressure caused the Dogs to make uncharacteristic errors when moving the ball down the ground.
HAWKS v BULLDOGS Full match coverage and stats
Hawthorn got on top in the contested possessions and started to make the most of its opportunities in front of goal, kicking three goals to one to enter half time with a slim lead.
The Dogs needed a spark, and Aaron Naughton answered the call, taking a strong contested mark and converting to kick the first goal of the second half.
The contest then began to open up, with momentum fluctuating wildly as goals flowed at both ends.
But it was the Hawks that ended the term strongly, and by the time Koschitzke kicked their fourth consecutive goal late in the quarter, they were 14 points up and seemingly in control.
Any chance of a Bulldogs comeback in the final term was quickly eroded, as Koschitzke and Howe piled on more goals to seal Hawthorn’s third consecutive win and condemn the Dogs to their first interstate loss of the season.
Bulldogs hit by late season form slump
While Saturday’s loss has implications for the Dogs’ ladder position, coach Luke Beveridge will be more concerned by his side’s worrying form heading into finals. The Launceston defeat was the first time the Dogs have lost successive games this season, a testament to how consistent they have been all year. But against the Hawks, Luke Beveridge’s men looked sloppy, lethargic and lacking confidence against a more hungry Hawthorn outfit. The Bulldogs will need to turn things around quickly ahead of their pivotal clash with fellow premiership contender Port Adelaide to end the season.
Downie makes the most of O'Meara's misfortune
Hawks fans would have been disappointed on Saturday when it emerged Jaeger O'Meara was a late out with knee soreness. But O'Meara's misfortune proved beneficial for Connor Downie, who replaced the star midfielder in the selected side. Even though it was Downie's second AFL game, it was actually his first time playing on the field, after being an unused medical sub in his round one debut against Essendon. The Hawthorn Next Generation Academy product finished with 12 disposals and two marks.
Hawthorn wins the midfield battle
The Bulldogs are known for having one of the best midfields in the competition with names such as Marcus Bontempelli, Jack Macrae and Tom Liberatore causing headaches for opposition sides all season. With Adam Treloar and Josh Dunkley also recently returning from injury, the Dogs looked like they would overpower a Hawthorn engine room missing Jaeger O’Meara and James Worpel. But the stats in Launceston told a different story, with Hawthorn winning the clearances (+2) and contested possessions (+17). Hawthorn’s dominance in the hitouts (+40) also helped Alastair Clarkson’s men win 10 of the 14 centre clearances, which was key to Saturday's upset win.
HAWTHORN 0.2. 3.7 7.8 9.10 (64)
WESTERN BULLDOGS 1.3. 2.4 5.6 5.7 (37)
Hawthorn: Koschitzke 2, McEvoy, Bramble, Hanrahan, Mitchell, Lewis, Wingard, Howe
Western Bulldogs: Weightman 2, Hannan, Naughton, Garcia
Hawthorn: Howe, Koschitzke, O'Brien, Newcombe, Mitchell, Wingard
Western Bulldogs: Liberatore, Bontempelli, Macrae, Dale, Weightman
Western Bulldogs: Nil
Hawthorn: Josh Morris (unused)
Western Bulldogs: Anthony Scott (unused)
Crowd: TBC at UTAS Stadium