Bulldogs fight off Suns to even AFL ledger
The Western Bulldogs have got their AFL season firmly back on track after beating Gold Coast by 19 points to even their win-loss ledger at 5-5.
Last year's grand finalists have struggled for consistency all season but in front of a buzzing crowd in Ballarat, prevailed 15.16 (106) to 13.9 (87) to claim back-to-back wins for the first time this season.
"For our lads to hold their nerve and continue to come again and then get little margins here and there, then at the end we definitely stabilised when they were coming, it was encouraging," coach Luke Beveridge said.
"... Last time we were down here we dropped a game by a point (against Adelaide) and those small margins separate the ones who are going to be also-rans and the ones that are going to be up the top.
"Hopefully we can establish ourselves as a team that can string a few more together as we go on."
Tim English (flu) is set to be available for selection against West Coast next week, as is Cody Weightman (collarbone).
The Suns never gave up, especially after losing Rory Thompson to a second-quarter knee injury while they were also without Jy Farrar (concussion) after halftime.
Gold Coast coach Stuart Dew believes Thompson has avoided a dreaded ACL tear in just his third game back after missing three seasons through two knee reconstructions.
Bulldogs skipper Marcus Bontempelli booted three clutch goals and had 24 disposals and Bailey Smith (34 disposals) continued his stellar season.
Beveridge hailed defender Ed Richards as "outstanding" and applauded Bontempelli for a "big captain's last quarter".
Aaron Naughton looked set to break the game open with three first-half goals but was quietened by Sam Collins in the second half.
Beveridge hinted his star forward had been blocked out in the latter part of the game but was cagey when pressed on it, saying he'd have to look at the footage.
"I've got to be really careful here. Because he's been so dominant and then there are reasons why he wasn't in the second half. That's all I'll say," he said.
"We'll do some follow up. But he kept fighting, kept bringing the ball to ground and that's what he does."
Gold Coast's Joel Jeffrey was brilliant, booting five goals, with Dew hailing the 20-year-old's performance after a family member died during the week.
"After the week that he had, for a young lad to come out in his sixth game, to kick five goals in those circumstances, we're proud of him and his family should be proud of him," Dew said.
He was well-supported by Ben Ainsworth (three goals) while David Swallow worked hard in midfield.
The Bulldogs led by seven at halftime but extended their lead beyond five goals in the third term.
Jeffrey stemmed the bleeding by snapping his fourth and the Suns fought back from there, responding time and time again until the Bulldogs iced the game in the final minute.
"We never quite got going but we never gave up," Dew said.
"You can look at that two ways."
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