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Bulldogs need forward thinking after falling to third-straight loss

He had the knee strapped and, to the cheers of the Lions’ faithful, returned to the field but the full extent of the injury will only be known after he has scans.

The Bulldogs have winless Adelaide and Melbourne to come over the next fortnight but they have issues to address, namely improving at the clearances, while using the ball better when heading into attacking 50 and finding a potent forward line that can score quickly.

They had kicked seven goals or fewer in four of their past five games and while they had 11 this time, the return from injury of Aaron Naughton failed to ensure a more lethal attacking set up. Naughton, having had elite defender Harris Andrews to deal with, took until the final term to goal but will be better for the run. Fellow tall Josh Bruce failed to goal until midway through the third term, compounding the Dogs’ woes.

That the Bulldogs have an average losing margin of 41 this season must also be concerning, indicating they cannot stem the opposition’s flow.

The Dogs began in a blaze, booting the opening three goals, having taken the game on through the corridor. Mitch Wallis has been the Dogs’ stand-out forward all season and he marked strongly and converted twice. He finished with three. When Macrae added one on the run, the visitors had momentum.

This, however, didn’t last. A tight contest early in the second term suddenly had a fault line when the Lions had 10 of the final 11 inside 50s in the second term and booted five straight. That became six when Eric Hipwood delivered the first after the main break.

Brisbane's Eric Hipwood celebrates a goal with teammates.

Brisbane’s Eric Hipwood celebrates a goal with teammates. Credit:Getty Images

The Lions swarmed in numbers. Brownlow Medal favourite Lachie Neale, with 36 touches for the night, Dayne Zorko and Jarryd Lyons had plenty of the ball, while Hipwood had three goals to half-time. For the Bulldogs, too much was left to Macrae, set for another All-Australian selection. Marcus Bontempelli and Tom Liberatore were unable to have the impact they wanted. Lachie Hunter’s return, which could be as early as this week, can’t come quick enough.

Tim English worked his way into the match but was beaten by Oscar McInerney in the ruck, meaning the Dogs couldn’t win the first contest. They were crunched in the clearances by Zorko, Neale and Lyons and could not win the ball back. English’s slip in form has corresponded with the Dogs’ slide.

Wood held the dangerous Cameron goalless but it didn’t matter for spearhead Hipwood, having been unable to boot more than one goal in a match since his three in round one, delivered five majors in a forward line that was regularly able to trap the ball inside their attacking arc.

Making his mark

Lions forward Callum Ah Chee had a first term to remember. He botched a shot at goal on the run but soon made amends by converting a set shot from the forward pocket. Then came the highlight, and surely a mark-of-the-week contender, with a “hanger” in the same pocket over defender Ryan Gardner. Neale’s running shot from just inside 50 had drifted wide but Ah Chee showed his hops and sparked memories of Demon Shaun Smith’s famous grab at this venue all those years ago. That he converted the set shot ensured this tale had a fitting end.

Bumpy ride

Zorko was a touch bewildered to concede a free kick to Bailey Smith in the second term when he bumped Smith over the boundary line when the young Bulldog was still airborne. Smith crashed into the advertising signs in what could potentially have been a dangerous act. Zorko immediately checked on him, indicating there had been no malice in the act. That may have been the case but it’s incidents like this which need to be stamped out.

Where was the whistle?

Harris Andrews should have been penalised for holding the ball when he was tackled by Josh Dunkley about 30m out from the Bulldogs’ goal late in the second term. The missed call frustrated Lions supporters and Channel Seven commentators – and added to more confusion over this rule interpretation.

BEST
Western Bulldogs:
Macrae, Wood, Liberatore, Daniel
Brisbane Lions: Neale, Zorko, McInerney, Hipwood, Andrews, Lyons

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