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The Western Bulldogs’ Finals hopes are all but dashed after an extraordinary Sydney Swans opening quarter paved the way for a landslide victory at the SCG on Friday night, 17.18 (120) to 9.13 (67).
Both teams were looking to bounce back from losses, but a seven-goal first stint against the Swans saw them take what was ultimately an unassailable lead against the Dogs, who never seemed to have any real hope of winning afterwards. .
The Dogs will now face another top-eight contender, St Kilda, next Friday night, while Sydney travel to Perth to take on Fremantle.
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QUARTERLY DISTRICT SUMMARY
The Swans made a late change with Braeden Campbell out and Ryan Clarke coming in from the side. Harry Cunningham (Sydney) and Robbie McComb (Western Bulldogs) are the medical backups.
Clarke was supposed to potentially play the role of a forward tagger to try and negate Bailey Dale’s influence, which came through on the opening rebound.
James Rowbottom scored the game’s first goal minutes into the game, which came after a footy push.
Cody Weightman missed a free kick for the Dogs but Isaac Heeney made no such mistake at the other end after receiving a free kick for a frontal contact against Ed Richards.
Joel Amartey was the next Swan to hit the scoreboard as the Dogs were separated in their defensive 50.
Goals from Lance Franklin and Heeney made it a stunning 31-point margin after 15 minutes, before Weightman finally broke the drought for the Dogs.
“A team never comes out like this when they get absolute roasting from the coach all week long,” Luke Hodge said on Channel 7.
“John Longmire would have been furious with the way they were overtaken from the second quarter (against Essendon).”
Weightman’s goal was only a momentary relief for the Dogs, with two of the next three goals going to the Swans, giving the Swans a 37-point lead at the quarter.
Despite a huge quartertime deficit, the Dogs doubled down in the second quarter, being much more competitive in the overall game.
Dylan Stephens scored the first goal of the quarter, but from then on the Dogs created plenty of chances in their front 50.
However, the inaccuracy plagued the Dogs, although they managed to score a few goals to start closing the margin.
In a blow to the Swans, ruckman Peter Ladhams was replaced, clearing the way for Tim English to have a bigger impact on the contest.
As the Dogs dominated the season, a goal for Callum Mills just before halftime meant the Swans were trailing just one goal, with a 29-point margin.
The Swans made a perfect start to the third quarter, with brilliant play from Heeney parting the seas and scoring three goals for the game.
English responded on the other end as he began to wield more influence in the contest.
From then on, however, it looked eerily like the first quarter, as the Swans took full control of the game, scoring five of the next six goals.
Jamarra Ugle-Hagan stemmed the Dogs’ bleeding on the eve of three-quarters time, but the Swans entered the final substitution with a 49-point lead.
The result being almost assured, it was only a matter of pride for the Dogs in the final term.
They got the opening goal via Aaron Naughton, but it was a rare moment inside their front 50 as the Swans continued to drive forward with ease.
The Dogs threw the last three scores of the game, but all were behind as they failed to make big inroads on the sidelines.
THE 3-2-1 (by Catherine Healey)
3) ‘OFF THE CHARTS’ SWANS RESPOND IN THE BEST WAY POSSIBLE
Sydney coach John Longmire was hugely disappointed with their final-quarter fade that cost them victory against Essendon last week.
But it was a completely different outfit from the Swans that showed up at SCG on Friday night.
The Swans were able to ‘flex their muscles’ and put on a ‘truly impressive’ performance which set a new standard for the competition.
Teams have averaged a pressure rating of 182 so far in 2022.
Against the Dogs on Friday night, Sydney’s pressure was a season-high 216.
“It’s the standard – the benchmark for the rest of the competition,” praised Fox Footy’s Jonathan Brown.
“It’s the highest pressing performance we’ve seen from any team in the competition this year.
“It was amazing. They were magnificent.
Brown described the Swans’ pressure as “off the beaten track” in the third term, where they racked up 23 tackles to just eight.
The pressure rating for only this third term was 230.
“They brought it tonight – just incredible numbers,” he said.
Alastair Lynch has described Sydney as “super impressive” over four quarters.
“The Swans just smashed them out of the park,” he said.
“When they lost the ball, they just raised the bar in terms of pressure. They did it beautifully.
Lyon said the Swans’ dominance in the middle was a welcome return to their early season form.
“The pressure was the hallmark of victory,” he said.
“They are an emotional side, Sydney. When they start well and the crowd backs them at SCG, damn it, they’re hard to beat.
2) WHERE DID IT ALL GO WRONG FOR THE DOGS?
The Western Bulldogs headed to the SCG – a ground where they have won three of their last four games – needing victory to keep their 2022 Finals hopes alive.
But what they served up was called by their own fans “pathetic” and “disappointing” by Fox Footy’s Garry Lyon.
“They have problems all over the pitch,” he said.
“Their back half just can’t defend in the air or on the ground, their front half is so dependent on one man and he always carries such a big load and one of your best midfielders, Treloar, plays against the back half.”
The Dogs have been “absolutely crushed” in the areas of their game they pride themselves on — clearance and competition, according to Fox Footy’s Nick Riewoldt.
At half-time, Marcus Bontempelli had just six touches while Josh Dunkley and Tim English had just 14 between them.
Lyon said the Dogs were “all at sea” in the first term and couldn’t understand how the players didn’t arrive in the right frame of mind.
The Dogs now face one of the toughest races at home, with fixtures to come against St Kilda, Melbourne, Geelong and Fremantle in the next five weeks.
1) SUPER SWAN COVERS A BIG DOUBLE HIT
Sydney ended the clash with the Western Bulldogs without number one ruckman Tom Hickey, who has been battling illness all week.
Peter Ladhams has been given the difficult role of taking on the returning Bulldog Tim English.
But the ruckman didn’t reach halftime and was substituted with a thumb injury.
Considering the Englishman was described by Fox Footy’s Garry Lyon as “a generational ruckman” and compared to five-time Australian ruckman Max Gawn, the Dogs must have struggled.
Veteran Sam Reid not only filled in admirably, but he managed to get the Swans’ first use of mids.
“Hats off to Sam Reid,” said Jonathan Brown.
Reid finished with 15 takedowns, 25 hits and 13 tackles in an outstanding performance at SCG.
“Sam Reid is up against an opponent 11cm taller than him,” commentator James Brayshaw said.
“We did look into the blood culture…maybe that’s what it represents.”
Commentator Jude Bolton was impressed with Reid’s ability to compete.
“Definitely Sam Reid, his role to step up especially when Ladhams went down, it’s been huge,” he said.
“You would expect Tim English to really take control in midfield and that hasn’t happened.”
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