Unless you’re a West Coast fan this game was the game to watch on Saturday night. The top of the table Cats against the upstart Bulldogs who have really come into their own in the recent stages of the 2019 season.
The first half saw the Cats seemingly in control but just not getting their game plan flowing when moving the ball forward. The Bulldogs were stifling the Cats and making things difficult for them. Neither team was giving an inch and even though some pundits assumed the Cats would simply pull away it was the Bulldogs who found an extra gear and simply would not be denied.
Real credit must be given to Luke Beveridge and the Bulldogs coaching staff for the way they prepared their team this week. How telling that almost exactly one year from the boil over last year between the Cats and Dogs, that the match would live up to the same billing.
Well there’s no point dilly dallying, lets get stuck into the stuff that mattered.
The Best Stuff
The Bont just has a way of getting things done. It seemed so often that it was Bontempelli breaking through a tackle and driving the ball deep inside the dogs attacking 50. Another game with the Bont in the discussions for BOG, and another game where he borders on the uber-elite numbers keeping him from breaking into the Mongrel Punt team of the year. 27 disposals, 17 contested, a crucial one-on-one win in the goal square in the last quarter to finally put the Bulldogs in front. Add in five clearances, six tackles, six inside 50’s and a whopping seven free kicks, apparently its not just Bulldogs fans that are enamoured with his efforts. Got caught a couple times and had some poor disposals in the third, but nobody is perfect and there is only so much the Bont can do to carry his Bulldog teammates. Tonight I couldn’t see him doing much more in terms of influencing the outcome of the game. The Bont was doing the work for four quarters, he just needed some other Dogs to lift to his level to push them across the line.
Really looked lively and is showing that he is really developing his forward craft. Four goals, five marks inside 50, two contested marks and really could’ve punished the Cats even more with some straighter kicking. Naughton ended the match as the only forward for either team to have won his matchup for the night. It was telling at times when the Cats defence was caught-out with Naughton either on his own or with a mismatch against a smaller defender.
Really stood up to be counted and is showing his worth as a key defender for the doggies. Had more than his fair share of wins against Hawkins, including a couple one-on-ones. Provided (and received) really good support for his defensive teammates. Took several intercept marks and provided a consistent launchpad for the Bulldogs attacks. It was an outstanding game from Trengove and he showed how much the dogs missed him in defence in the round nine clash against the Cats where Hawkins and co ruled the forward skies, ripping down contested marks in their forward 50.
The whole Bulldogs Defence
Beautifully shut down the Cats forwards. Of course, the highest scoring team in the competition would eventually find a way... right?
The Dogs defenders worked beautifully to continually escape the hard-working Cats forward unit. This was best exemplified in late in the last quarter when Gary Rohan kicked long to the Cats goal square to one-on-one between Hawkins and Trengove. Hawkins successfully out muscled Trengove and looked to take a simple chest mark. It was in this moment, when all hope had faded, that Easton Wood came flying across Hawkins with a commanding fist, demonstrating how hard the Bulldog defenders were working to support each other. It is truly a credit to them, that they kept the Bulldogs competitive in such a low scoring affair under the roof of Marvel Stadium, until the forwards found their rhythm. It was also a complete turnaround from the round nine match up where the Dogs continually allowed themselves to be isolated in defence. Huge tick to the Dogs defensive coaches and players to be able to keep the Cats to only four goals form their last 35 inside 50’s.
Zach Tuohy had a ripper. 30 disposals at 77% efficiency, nine intercept possessions, and a game leading 722 metres gained. Tuohy probably could’ve stamped his impact on this game with a crucial goal in the third quarter I am sure he is currently stewing on. He was also unfortunate to be caught one-out on Bontempelli late in the last quarter. Touhy battled hard for the Cats and can hold his head up high.
Hunter was only in my ‘Good Stuff’ category at ¾ time. But his efforts in the last quarter propelled him into vote contention. Hunter’s last quarter was HUGE. 11 disposals, five contested and some crucial wins on the half back flank and wing for the dogs. Not only stifling the Cats efforts but driving the Dogs forward. Hunter had game highs in disposals and inside 50’s, as well as over 600 meters gained of his own. Hunter suffers from being called a tag of being a bit of a garbage collector around the half back line, but in this game, he made them count and hurt the Cats.
The Good Stuff
Won the ruck battle over the inexperienced English. 28 hit outs to 18. 20 disposals to 10. Stanley also had six clearances to English’s one. Was very stiff to be penalised for holding the ball after taking the ball out of the ruck contest in the third quarter. Maybe umpire McInerny hadn’t seen the change to that rule. Stanley was expected to win this contest but he will still take confidence from beating the developing English, after some of the losses he’s taken over the last month.
A very, very solid game form Dunkley. 27 disposals, three clearances and a match-high nine tackles. He can waste the footy at times, as shown by nine turnovers, but you cant question his endeavour at the footy. A very quiet achiever who had a very loud game. He had a couple of very big run downs in the third quarter, including one on Zach Tuohy who is definitely not slow, really set the tone for the charge the Bulldogs would eventually make.
It was really good to see Rohan back for the Cats. He doesn’t get high disposals, but he does take contested marks and kick goals (well, only one tonight, but we will get to goal kicking later). With 10 marks for Rohan tonight and five inside 50’s, he looked the likely forward to stand up for the Cats in the last quarter (and almost was). His level of pressure and intensity, combined with his speed is something the Mongrel Punt values highly. He is having arguably the best season of his career.
The Geelong Defence
Of course, a game played in perfect conditions that ended up registering such low scores by both teams would result in both defences receiving some credit for the way they operated. The Cats defenders were in the “best stuff” category until the last quarter. The loss of Kolodjashnij looked like it was going to be covered easily by the Cats defence as they pulled in what seemed like endless intercept marks form the Bulldogs wayward entries into their forward 50. However, the dam wall would eventually break as not even the combination of Harry Taylor (nine intercept possessions), Tom Stewart (six), Mark Blicavs (four), Jack Henry (five), Jed Bews (five) and Zach Touhy (nine) could halt the march of the Bulldogs charge.
The Not So Good Stuff
The Bulldogs Kicking Inside-50
Horrendous all night. Yes, the Cats defenders were zoning well and there was pressure being put on the midfield. But the dogs almost kick themselves out of this game on the back of the two most important kicks in footy. The primary is the kick going inside 50. So many times a Bulldog player would deliver the ball inside 50 to a Geelong defender. Simply fix up this area of their game up and we’re talking about a commanding Bulldogs win over the ladder leaders.
Both teams kicking for goal!
Sometimes the behind ledger can be deceiving. Often inflated by rushed behinds and shots form difficult locations or heavily contested situations. However, in this game, both teams simply kicked appallingly at goal, especially when you consider it was played in perfect conditions. It just wasn’t good enough. The loser was always going to rue their misses more, but both teams should be out on the track practicing their goal kicking after some 400’s. I hate to continue to draw comparisons to the round nine encounter between these two, but the kicking on that night was very good, particularly from set shots.
Just really couldn’t find a way to significantly impact this game. Just 11 disposals and three score involvements. There were times when he was lurking around the contest but just couldn’t get himself used enough in dangerous positions. A disappointing night in an otherwise fantastic season.
Looked to have shaken the issues of previous weeks early. However, Trengove absolutely won the battle against Hawkins, thanks to some support at some critical stages. A late clanger by Trengove which gifted Hawkins his second goal and only disposal for the last quarter made him seem to have a somewhat respectable night, but he was completely beaten by Trengove.
The Other Stuff
Out-on-the-Full, but not quite.
Receiving a free kick on the boundary on the Cats halfback line, early in the third quarter. Gary Rohan’s effort to kick the ball forward along the wing sailed out of bounds on the full and the Bulldogs looked to capitalise. However, the only issue was that the ball actually never re-entered the field of play from Rohan’s kick. Luckily, the umpires were more knowledgeable than Cats coach Chris Scott and correctly adjudicated the situation and threw the ball in form where Rohan took his kick.
Whether it was a parochial crowd that led to a lack of awareness, or an extra level of defensive intensity from both teams, but there were a lot of players run down form behind in this game. Bontempelli was caught twice! Either way, as a small player it was good to see a bit of the old-fashioned run down come back in vogue. Here’s to more of it.
Someone needs to tell Jordan Clark that when goes to take a big hanger, that you’re meant to put your knee into the oppositions face and not your teammates. It may have greater ramifications than first thought as the cats had to reshuffle their defence in the absence of the solid defender and this could be attributed to the defences inability to hold the Bulldogs charge in the final quarter. Still a rock-solid mark though.
Applauding of Umpires… Yes sir.
It was a great gesture by both teams after the game to form a guard of honour for umpire Shane McInerny. Umpiring his 496th game and breaking the record set by Hayden Kennedy in 2011. It’s very likely he may receive the same treatment in four weeks when he umpires game number 500. As far I would say, getting clapped off the ground as an umpire twice in a season. I’d say pull up stumps as the most loved umpire in history, before the fans remember that one time you paid a 50/50 decision the oppositions way. But in all seriousness, after all the controversy of the season so far, it is good to see that the game can still be sensible and recognise such an achievement for its true value. Don’t like it? Try umpiring a game yourself.
Yes, he didn’t play in the game, but it has to be noted that he made a successful return in the VFL this weekend and will no doubt slot into the Bulldogs AFL defence in the coming weeks. A truly remarkable story of perseverance. The wily veteran’s return will only solidify the Dogs defence and provide an amazing cap to a remarkable career.
The Final Wrap
For the Cats this is a familiar story. The Bulldogs continued the trend of beating the Cats at their own game. The Cats have now lost three games in 2019 and in each game thy have lost the contested possessions and the clearances. The connection is not up for debate anymore. To beat the Cats, you have to square up and hit them between the eyes. How many teams on the run home are willing to do so?
For the Bulldogs, this win puts them back in the equation for September action. Even though they still sit a game and percentage out of the eight, but with wins against Richmond, Brisbane, Port Adelaide and now Geelong they have shown they can more than match it with the best. They can only hope that their loss against the Gold Coast in round three doesn’t come back to haunt them in the hunt for September.
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