Eric Hipwood goaled at the beginning of the last quarter from a scrambled clearance by Jarryd Lyons to give Brisbane some breathing space. Charlie Cameron’s fourth goal appeared to put the match to bed for a second time, but the Dogs wouldn’t lie down, Bontempelli keeping them within a few kicks.
But the Lions have found all kinds of ways to win this year, and Hipwood’s second two minutes later – courtesy of a crucial one-on-one win upfield by Cameron, who was superb again for the Lions – sealed the result, leaving the Bulldogs adrift at 11th on the ladder, a win and significant percentage outside the eight.
Luke Beveridge’s men are one of the conundrums of the competitions. They have a potent mix of inside and outside midfielders, and easily beat the Lions for possessions and clearances, especially from the centre. Jackson Macrae had the ball on a string all night, and finished with 45 disposals.
And in Aaron Naughton, Josh Schache and Bailey Dale, it’s not like they don’t have targets to kick to. Once the ball passes half-forward, though, the Bulldogs struggle to connect. At half-time they risked being blown away, with a miserable 2.8 to show for their efforts.
Not that the Lions made it easy for them – their hardness at the contest was as good as it’s been all year, exemplified by a goal-saving tackle by Darcy Gardiner on Dale in the second quarter. Daniel Rich, Harris Andrews and the revelatory Noah Answorth, plus the calming presence of Luke Hodge, are a solid unit.
Mitch Robinson has been a rock for the Lions since his arrival in 2015, but even so, no one could have predicted such an exceptional year from the veteran. He continued an exceptional stretch of form and was the most influential player on the ground in the first half, winning the ball, kicking two goals, tackled as ferociously as ever, and held his nerve when the going was tight.
Macrae the magnet, Bont brilliance
Despite the loss, the Dogs might have had the best two players on the ground.
Jack Macrae has always been an accumulator and distributor of the football, but his workrate in this game was enormous, with 12 clearances and seven tackles to go with his 45 possessions.
And Marcus Bontempelli got better the long the match went, dragging the Dogs back into contention with an enormous second quarter.
Wild about Charlie
If he wasn’t already locked in as All-Australian, Charlie Cameron’s four goals – bringing him to 41 for the season so far – should surely seal it.
But it’s not all about the goals. Almost impossible to match up, Cameron’s speed, run and pressure up the ground was elite throughout, and he looms as arguably the biggest wildcard in the finals.
4.3 7.7 11.9 14.14 (98)
0.5 2.8 8.10 11.14 (80)
GOALS – Brisbane Lions: Cameron 4 Christensen 2 Robinson 2 Hipwood 2 McInerney, Rayner, McCluggage, Neale.
Western Bulldogs: Schache 2 Naughton 2 English, Dale, Richards, Johannisen, Lipinski, Bontempelli, Suckling.
BEST – Brisbane Lions: Robinson, Cameron, Gardiner, Christensen, Martin, Neale.
Western Bulldogs: Bontempelli, Macrae, Dunkley, Smith, Johannisen, Daniel.
INJURIES – Brisbane Lions: Zorko (hamstring). Western Bulldogs: (TBC)
Umpires: Chamberlain Fleer Gianfagna.
Crowd: 25,831 at The Gabba.
M Bontempelli (WB) 8
J Macrae (WB) 8
M Robinson (BL) 8
C Cameron (BL) 7
D Gardiner (BL) 7