Match report: Lions maul Dogs to jump to top spot

BRISBANE earned a degree of retribution with a resounding 32 points win against the Western Bulldogs in the NAB AFLW Grand Final rematch at the Whitten Oval on Saturday night.

While losing a premiership decider can never be compensated, the Lions at least gave themselves a chance of getting another shot at this season's flag with the dominant 7.7 (49) to 2.5 (17) victory in perfect conditions under lights.

The Lions leapt to top spot in Conference B, while the loss left the Dogs languishing in last place in the other conference.

AFLW Match Highlights: Western Bulldogs v Brisbane

04:36 Feb 23. 2019. 9:18 PM

The Bulldogs and Lions clash in Round 4 of the AFLW

Brisbane maintained control of the contest with better composure with the ball and a functioning forward set-up that always threatened to score inside the forward 50.

Really, the Bulldogs never threatened, especially after the goalless opening quarter with the breeze at their backs.

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The Dogs did lift their intensity in the second half and looked more dangerous when defender Hannah Scott went into the midfield to provide assistance for overworked co-captain Ellie Blackburn.

But the Dogs were done when Blackburn was crunched in a pack early in the last quarter and play had to be halted while she was carried off on a stretcher, her departure a sad reflection of the reigning premier's dilemma.

Bulldog stretchered off after big hit

00:44 Feb 23. 2019. 8:48 PM

Ellie Blackburn was left dazed after a collision with a Brisbane opponent

The Bulldogs paid dearly for the inability to post scoreboard pressure with use of a slight breeze, particularly in the third term with a strengthening wind.

While co-captain Katie Brennan presented a viable target up forward, the Dogs just couldn't deliver the ball within reach of her safe hands. And Brennan's problems with congestion were compounded by the Lions putting an extra player into defence against the wind.

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When Jordan Zanchetta got a boot to a snapshot by Sabrina Frederick-Traub right on the goalline late in the opening term, the Dogs were already in deep trouble.

What a contrast when Brisbane had its turn with the wind. While Frederick-Traub's height and strength was a constant worry, the Lions also had tall teenager Jesse Wardlaw as an option, if not to mark the high balls but at least bring it to ground.

The Lions generally had more composure when in possession and Jess Wuetschner underlined this when she took a free kick, ran around on to the left side and drilled a long shot on the run.

Brisbane controlled the ebb and flow of the contests and reaped reward for long kicks that put the Bulldogs defenders under the pump.

Onballer Breanna Koenen stretched the lead just before half-time with a long shot that bounced through the unguarded goal.

Koenen was swamped by teammates as the Lions sensed an upset on the road.

With the comfortable scoreboard buffer, the Lions grew in confidence and never relented their attack on the ball and the ball-carrier.

Brilliant Dog bends home a Goal of the Year contender

00:30 Feb 23. 2019. 9:06 PM

Kirsten McLeod curls home a banana at full pace for an incredible goal

A nervous wait

To compound the Bulldogs' dirty night, co-captain Ellie Blackburn was taken to hospital for scans to her neck and head after a heavy collision near the centre early in the last quarter. "We'll take all precautions with Ellie. She has just headed off to hospital for some scans just to make sure everything is OK. I think it was just a glance of a shoulder to the head. There was no malice in it. We'll monitor that and hopefully have her back," Dogs coach Paul Groves said. Blackburn is the heart and soul of the Bulldogs midfield group and they need her back quickly if they are to have any hope of challenging for a semi-final spot. 

Got the job done

Few realised that the Lions were up against it even before they ran out with the late withdrawal of key defender Leah Kaslar. Kaslar, who would have picked up Bulldogs gun forward Katie Brennan, didn't come up after injuring a calf muscle last round. "Our defensive group which has been pretty tight for the last two seasons, has taken a bit of a rocking in the last few weeks. So, for them to come back that strongly tonight was terrific," Lions coach Craig Starcevich said.

 

Winning formula

Poor recent form rather than the Grand Final defeat was the driving force for Brisbane players. "They were very determined tonight to rectify the last couple of weeks. We were itching to right the wrongs a bit," Starcevich said. "If you've got a couple of tall forwards who can catch it, that's pretty handy. One of them is 18 and has played footy for two years. We had another four 18-year-olds out there tonight, so we're ecstatic about their development. We had a lot of kids out there and they're slowly growing." 

It was over when .... 

Nothing worked for the Doggies. Even their best ball-handlers had an off night, with Monique Conti among those to butcher golden opportunities. Conti ran onto a chipped pass from Brennan in the third quarter and drew an opponent, leaving teammate Aisling McCarthy alone in the goal square. The attempted short pass slewed off Conti's boot, past McCarthy's groping hands for a behind instead of the certain goal. "Obviously, I had my teammate right there, so I guess I just kicked the ball across my body and it went across the face of the goal. Yeah, I had the opportunity, but it didn't work out well," Conti said.

Say what?

"Obviously, very pleased. Things we spoke about how we nullify the opposition and then how we beat them, most of which we discussed came to fruition. They were super, they pressured and got out in space and carried the ball well and used it. Often, things you set up as coach don't come true, but tonight they did," - Brisbane coach Craig Starcevich 

"We managed to lock it in for the first five minutes, but when you don't score, especially here. Then they were able to get out in the middle and took their chances. They're quick, they've got some really fast players and I certainly didn't see it coming, being a bit flat in that first 15 minutes was pretty costly," - Western Bulldogs coach Paul Groves

WESTERN BULLDOGS     0.2   0.2   1.3  2.5 (17)
BRISBANE                      1.1   3.5   4.7   7.7 (49)

GOALS
Western Bulldogs: McCarthy, McLeod
Brisbane: McCarthy 2, Zanchetta, Wuetschner, Koenen, Exon, Hunt 

BEST
Western Bulldogs: Blackburn, Scott, Conti, Utri, Mackie
Brisbane: Anderson, Exon, Bates, Zielke, Wardlow, Campbell 

INJURIES
Western Bulldogs: Blackburn (head)
Brisbane: Nil 

Reports: Nil 

Umpires: Broadbent, Johanson, McPhee

Crowd: 6541 at the Whitten Oval