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By David Reed 10:15 PM Fri 21 August, 2009
THE Western Bulldogs have taken a solid grip on a top four berth after beating Geelong by 14 points at Docklands on Friday night.

The Dogs tackled with an intensity that will be hard to match come September and withstood a wholehearted Geelong fightback to win 16.14 (110) to 14.12 (96).

Not even five first-half posters could stop the Bulldogs’ charge and they barely had a passenger.

But the Cats took plenty of the game as well.

After falling five goals behind early in the third term, they returned to somewhere near their top form in a scintillating patch of football.

Gary Ablett (40 disposals) was again clearly best afield and their defence showed signs of coming back to form with Matthew Scarlett and Harry Taylor slotting back nicely.

Tom Hawkins (three goals) and Cameron Mooney (four) also did well up forward

But the injury curse struck again with Paul Chapman failing to reappear after half time with what looked like another hamstring strain.

But there was no such concerns for the Dogs, who just a fortnight after being upset by West Coast, produced one of their games of the season.

Their defence was red hot with Brian Lake commanding at full back and Jarrod Harbrow a standout rebounder.

Harbrow’s kicking was superb and he gave Mathew Stokes a night to forget, for the first half at least.

Robert Murphy, Josh Hill (three goals) and Brad Johnson (two) looked dangerous up forward all night and the side’s midfield weren’t overwhelmed by the star Cats.

Adam Cooney more than held his own in-close and Shaun Higgins made a successful return from injury.

Geelong was celebrating Cameron Ling’s 200th game and started in tenacious form.

Taylor’s opening goal was one of several forays forward in the first 10 minutes but Lake provided a massive stumbling block to them kicking more goals.

When the Dogs got their chance they found more effective ways into attack and consequently jumped away with the next three goals.

Three other shots hit the post in the first quarter, which limited the Bulldogs’ lead to three points at the first change.

Johnson added a fourth poster moments into the second term but his side was all over Geelong.

The Dogs’ kicking was vastly superior, their tackling fiercer and their moves forward more purposeful.

The only blemish was their inability to convert.

In 15 minutes of dominance, the Dogs booted 2.6 with several of those shots very kickable by their high standards.

Mooney kept Geelong in touch with two goals in 50 seconds but the Cats’ joy was short-lived as the Dogs responded with two more to open up a 19-point lead at the long break.

There was barely a bad Dog in their impressive opening half but the Cats looked a shell of the all-conquering unit of the past couple of seasons.

When Callan Ward and Murphy added two quick goals in the first five minutes of third quarter the lead was out to 30 points and it looked like ‘how far the Dogs?’

But Geelong’s pride soon came to the fore.

A costly 50m penalty for running over the mark against  Lake helped Hawkins get a goal that somehow ignited the Cats.

Suddenly their tackling was ferocious, the bumps were sticking and by the end of the term the familiar Cat swagger was back.

Geelong booted 6.4 to 3.0 to take a three-point lead to the final change.

It set up a fantastic final quarter where there was nowhere to hide and heroic acts became commonplace.

In the final analysis it was the Dogs’ ability to make the most of their attacking moves in that last term that won them the game.

Western Bulldogs  3.5  7.12  10.12  16.14 (110)
Geelong     3.2  5.5  11.9  14.12 (96)

GOALS
Western Bulldogs:
Hill 3, Boyd 2, Cooney 2, Johnson 2, Akermanis, Gilbee, Hahn, Higgins, Murphy, Ward, Welsh
Geelong: Mooney 4, Hawkins 3, Byrnes 2, Gamble, Mumford, Selwood, Stokes, Taylor

BEST
Western Bulldogs: Johnson, Boyd, Cooney, Hill, Lake, Harbrow, Eagleton, Murphy
Geelong: Ablett, Selwood, Bartel, Corey, Ling, Mooney, Scarlett, Mackie

Injuries
Western Bulldogs:
Nil
Geelong: Chapman (hamstring)

Reports
Nil

Umpires: Vozzo, Ryan, Jeffrey
Official crowd: 46,818 at Docklands

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The views in this story are those of the author and not necessarily those of the clubs or the AFL. 
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