IT TENDS to always come back to Marcus Bontempelli.
With the Western Bulldogs under siege in the final moments of Thursday night's clash with Sydney, and the Swans having cut back the Dogs' lead from 17 points to five with a minute to play, it was the Dogs skipper who found himself with the ball.
DOGS v SWANS Full match coverage and stats
Twenty metres out from goal, Bontempelli trickled it through, the goal sealing the Dogs their first win of 2022 after back-to-back defeats to begin the season.
The Bulldogs should have sewn this game up well before. But inaccuracy was costly and kept the Swans within reach throughout the 9.17 (71) to 9.6 (60) result.
Ruckman Tim English was a major factor in the win, with the big man dominant around the contest and across the ground, while Cody Weightman was dangerous throughout with a game-high three goals and important conversion under pressure.
Bailey Smith returned from his hip injury to produce an excellent 31-disposal game while Josh Dunkley was also busy through the midfield with 31 touches.
The Grand Finalists' campaign would have been in strife with a 0-3 start but Luke Beveridge's men are now on the board as they inflicted the first defeat of Sydney's season.
IT'S TIM'S TURN 'Dominant' Dog ready to step up, Swans left to rue slow start
The Dogs won their first opening quarter of the season but should have claimed it by more given their dominance with the ball. They pounced on some mistakes in the back half from Sydney to take a two-goal lead into quarter-time, with livewire Weightman busy in attack.
A defensive struggle ensued in the second term, with a free kick at the top of the goalsquare at the 24-minute mark leading to the single goal of the quarter to Bulldogs forward Laitham Vandermeer.
From the highest-scoring side in the AFL in the opening two rounds, the Swans went scoreless for the second term, with their 1.3 (9) half-time scoreline their lowest in two years at the main break since round four, 2020, also against the Western Bulldogs.
The Dogs' 25-point break at half-time was both deserved but not enough. In a fierce contest, they could have been further ahead but had also blunted the Swans' scoring power.
Sydney's surge eventually arrived in the third term when it kicked four goals, but the Bulldogs responded to the challenge, with Weightman kicking a second and then a third after a spectacular leap and grab inside 50. In an incredibly inaccurate display from the Dogs it was Weightman's efficiency and class that stood out to give the Dogs an 18-point buffer at the final change.
The Swans kept coming, with a converted 50-metre penalty for Errol Gulden cutting the Dogs' lead back to five points with a minute to play, before Bontempelli again stepped up when it mattered.
It was a huge performance from English, who had one of the best games of his career in an outstanding ruck display. The big man collected 24 disposals, eight clearances and eight marks, and also had 28 hitouts. Add to that his game-high 12 score involvements and his influence on the result was immense. Even before the Swans lost their No.1 ruckman Tom Hickey to a knee injury in the third quarter was English getting on top.
A battle of the No.1s
It was a No.1 pick up against another No.1 pick in the battle between young Bulldogs forward Jamarra Ugle-Hagan and born-again Sydney defender Paddy McCartin. The 2020 top draft pick had one of his better games in Bulldogs colours, showing smarts and athleticism inside 50, a tough approach at the contests and more confidence to fly for his marks. He kicked the opening goal of the game and then missed two shots in the second quarter, finishing with seven disposals and 1.2. McCartin, the 2014 first draft choice, continues to make a mark in Sydney's defence in his return to the top level; and had 12 disposals and five marks.
One thousand and…
The Buddy Show rolled into Melbourne after his historic 1000th-goal game last week with the Victorian-based Swans fans excited for another night of brilliance. After his four-goal effort against the Cats, Franklin was quieter against the Bulldogs, kicking two majors. His first came in the third quarter courtesy of a handball over the top from Isaac Heeney and the next came at the start of the fourth quarter with a quintessential goal from the pocket that curled through.
WESTERN BULLDOGS 3.3 4.10 6.15 9.17 (71)
SYDNEY 1.3 1.3 5.3 9.6 (60)
Western Bulldogs: Weightman 3, Bontempelli, Keath, Naughton, Ugle-Hagan, Vandermeer, Wallis
Sydney: Franklin 2, Hayward 2, Heeney, McLean, Ronke, Wicks
Western Bulldogs: English, Weightman, Smith, Dunkley, Dale, Treloar
Sydney: Blakey, Lloyd, Mills, Parker, Franklin
Western Bulldogs: Cordy (concussion)
Sydney: Hickey (knee)
Western Bulldogs: Mitch Wallis (replaced Zaine Cordy in the first quarter)
Sydney: Ben Ronke (replaced Tom Hickey in the third quarter)
Crowd: 24,327 at Marvel Stadium