Bulldogs on top after thrilling final
Bunbury recorded a thrilling three-point victory over a devastated Augusta-Margaret River in Sunday’s SWFL preliminary final at Hands Oval.
After trailing by 17 points early in the second quarter, the reigning premiers gradually fought back and held on for a memorable 6.7 (43) to 6.4 (40) win which will live long in the memory bank.
It was tight, tough and close, and with both sides inches away from a grand final berth, they threw everything at each other as the final seconds ticked away.
In many ways, neither side deserved to lose – such was the fierce collective desire across both teams.
However, the Bulldogs’ leaders responded better when their side needed a lift, with Jesse Gribble leading the charge.
Gribble had the ball on a string in the final term as his side sought a hammer blow, with the Hawks grimly battling to keep him and the Bulldogs in check.
Earlier in the afternoon it appeared as though the Hawks would be headed to the grand final.
Their ball use was crisp and clinical. They were calm under pressure and made smart decisions throughout the corridor.
Up forward, Jack Hick was terrorising the Bulldogs’ back six as his side scooted away to a 17-point lead at the 11-minute mark of the second term.
A hefty breeze, which ensured the city end became the favourable target for goalkicking, aided the Bulldogs in the third term.
The Hawks’ two-goal half-time lead was swallowed up by the Bulldogs midway through the third term, with Mark Longbottom’s second goal of the day putting his side up by a goal as the clock ticked into time on.
Sensing their side needed an injection of optimism, Mitch Payne marked strongly in the final minute of the term from long-range.
Payne’s unconvincing punt kick wobbled through the big sticks and ensured a thrilling final quarter with both sides deadlocked.
In the final quarter, the Bulldogs finally managed to dictate the pace of the game.
By locking the ball up and forcing tight, tough passages of play, the Hawks found it difficult to construct deep forward entries into the teeth of goal.
Pandemonium ensued on the final siren as the Bulldogs began to prepare for Sunday’s grand final against Donnybrook, while the Hawks lamented a disappointing end to an incredible finals campaign.
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