THE WESTERN Bulldogs have pulled off their second come-from-behind victory over Brisbane for the year to keep their premiership defence alive for another week.
The Bulldogs trailed by 11 points at three-quarter time but kicked six final-quarter goals to eventually overcome a brave Lions outfit by 14 points.
The Dogs jump into the top eight with the 14.19 (103) 13.11 (89) in front of 16,148 at the Gabba but Queensland continues to be a battlefield for them on the injury front.
Premiership captain Easton Wood left the field in the opening quarter with a bad hamstring injury which could have ended his season.
Two weeks ago they lost Dale Morris to a broken arm against the Suns in Cairns.
Brisbane were also a man down for the second half after losing Cedric Cox to an ankle injury and they lost Alex Witherden to a hamstring injury with ten minutes to go.
The Dogs made a late change, surprising no one, when travelling emergency Bob Murphy took his place in the side replacing Norm Smith Medallist Jason Johannisen.
Bulldogs coach Luke Beveridge said he feared the worst for Wood.
“It is probably more likely that it is a bad one than just a two or three weeker I‘d say,’’ he said.
“Can’t confirm anything and we’ll scan it but it appears he’s hurt it pretty badly.’’
He said Johanissen had a tight hamstring in the warm up and revealed he tipped off rival Chris Fagan about his late withdrawal and Murphy’s inclusion.
“It looks a bit orchestrated doesn’t it but that’s the way it unfolded,’’ he said.
“Normally I wouldn’t tell an opposition coach but Fages was walking across the ground and it was pretty close to the start of the game and we don’t normally play ducks and drakes so I had a quick chat to him, so he knew about it at that point in time as well.’’
Marcus Bontempelli had a good night that could have been great.
In the first, third and fourth quarters he marked the ball on the lead within the first twenty seconds and on each occasion he missed. Twice he hit the post. He also hit the post with another set shot in the second quarter to finish the night with 2.4.
Despite his inaccuracy, he just shaded teammate Jack Macrae as the best player on the ground.
His clean exits from centre clearances and constant threat when in the forward fifty were the difference between the two sides.
Such a performance against the reigning premiers could be considered a great effort for the last-placed Lions but they will be ruing a poor opening quarter.
Fagan said he had mixed emotions about the game.
“We were right in it, we started poorly which hurt us on the night,’’ he said.
“To be able to fit back like we did in the second and third quarter, and we had our chances in the last quarter and we just didn’t have the composure o take our chances and they were able to.
“We’re getting closer to beating one of the big teams, it will come.
“I don’t know whether to feel happy or unhappy to be honest.’’
At quarter time the Bulldogs led by 28 points and a thumping looked to be on the cards.
Brisbane couldn’t get their hands on the footy and they appeared reluctant to lay a hand on their opponents.
The pressure was non-existent and the Bulldogs appeared to have loose men everywhere.
What happened in the second quarter defied conventional footy wisdom. The Lions continued to be smashed at the clearances and in the contest but were able to slow down the Bulldogs scoring.
And unlike the first quarter when they couldn’t convert their forward 50m entries into goals, their efficiency improved dramatically.
They went inside 50 11 times for the quarter and scored 5.4. Their opponents went in 13 times for 2.3.
The Lions trailed by 11 at half-time but had completely stopped the Dogs’ scoring.
They did not kick a goal from the 13 minute mark of the second quarter until the second minute of the final term.
That was Bontempelli and it started the roll that led to the Dogs’ triumph.
FIVE THINGS WE LEARNT ABOUT THE LIONS
1. The Bob Murphy travelling emergency saga came to a predictable conclusion when the skipper was a late inclusion for Jason Johannisen. Brisbane weren’t fooled given no club sends a veteran interstate unless they’re planning to play.
2. Josh Walker has breathed new life into a career that was on the scrap heap at the bye. There was talk within the Lions of paying out contracts to free up list and salary cap space to lure a big fish and Walker would have been near the top of the list. His form over the past month would have changed that.
3. If injuries ultimately end the Bulldogs’ finals chances they will rue their two trips to Queensland. Two weeks ago they lost Dale Morris to a broken arm and last night it was Easton Wood to a bad hamstring injury. That is a major hole in their defence.
4. Jacob Allison is the latest teenager to make an immediate mark on the Lions. He has gathered over 20 possessions in his first two games, rivalling the start made by Alex Witherden.
5. Lewis Taylor could lay a claim to being the most improved player under Chris Fagan. Although he was the Rising Star winner in 2014, his last two years have been underwhelming. This year he has taken his game to a new level.