Injury carnage hurt, but Dogs’ diabolical defence really cost them on Friday night

The Western Bulldogs’ backline has by no means been what gained them video games, however with a dominant midfield shielding them from repeat entries as a rule, it has proved efficient sufficient through the years.

However the Dogs usually are not the crew they as soon as have been in 2022, and the crux of their woes in a defeat to Port Adelaide that was way more emphatic than the scoreboard suggests, centred on the backline.

Sliced open mercilessly within the first half by the Energy on the counterattack, and powerless to cease the house forwards marking just about all the things that got here their approach within the second, this was as dismal a defensive efficiency as we’ve seen all yr. Certainly, it took the Dogs’ midfield dominance for a lot of the primary half, and Port’s inaccuracy past that, to a lot as preserve this contest shut.

You’re not going to win too many video games while you allow the opposition to take 21 marks inside 50. Or while you allow them to rating 24 instances from simply 44 inside 50s. At one level halfway via the second quarter, the Energy had six objectives from simply 10 entries into their attacking zone.

Evaluating the Dogs’ set-up on Friday night time to that of Melbourne, the masters of defensive organisation, was virtually like watching a distinct sport. The place the Demons keep their construction come what could, with Steven Might content material to remain a kick behind the play and the remainder of the unit marshalling themselves round him, the Bulldogs appeared drawn to their opponents like bees to a honeypot all night time.

Whether or not it was a training transfer by Luke Beveridge or in any other case, Tim O’Brien, the Dogs’ designated interceptor, frequently adopted Robbie Grey wherever he went, creating ample area inside 50 for the Energy to make use of. Then, when discovered one-on-one contained in the arc, Grey’s smarts and a few intelligent kicking from the Energy midfielders, significantly Connor Rozee, noticed the veteran capitalise with two first-quarter objectives.

With the Dogs dominant from the centre early – they have been 7-2 up from centre clearances by quarter time, regardless of lacking captain and talisman Marcus Bontempelli – there have been at all times going to be dire penalties if the Energy mids had a run on.

Which they did after half time. Up till the early phases of the third time period, the Energy gained six centre clearances in a row – and made the Dogs pay full worth for many of them.

With O’Brien subbed out of the sport with a calf damage, and lacking Alex Keath, the Dogs’ undersized backline, with medi-sub Hayden Crozier tasked as a second tall, made Todd Marshall and Jeremy Finlayson seem like Dunstall and Brereton. No Charlie Dixon has made the Energy look toothless at instances in assault this yr, however not tonight.

Marshall disappears from video games utterly far too usually at this stage of his profession to be an elite ahead, however with five-goal hauls in opposition to Adelaide and West Coast already this yr, he can run riot when on music – or when handed a mismatch. Marking all the things that got here his approach within the third time period, he’d boot two objectives in fast succession to place the Energy’s lead, small for a lot of the match, into secure territory.

It was right here as a lot as wherever the place the Dogs sorely missed Bontempelli, who will frequently run again into defence and supply a well timed spoil to assist in the air. So, too, was the intercept marking prowess of Tim English notably lacking – Stefan Martin is properly and really previous being able to that. It goes with out saying that Keath would have made a notable distinction, too.

Bizarrely, the Dogs’ main weak point this yr – their ahead line – really seemed cheap, in opposition to an admittedly undersized Port Adelaide defence. Aaron Naughton was distinctive with 4 objectives and loads of trademark pack marks – although his lead into area within the remaining quarter after a gut-busting collection of runs was simply as eye-catching – whereas Buku Khamis appears to be like like he could have a future in assault.

It’s there the place the damage carnage hit hardest, although, with Cody Weightman (arm) and Laitham Vandermeer (hamstring) failing to complete the sport. Ought to they miss any interval of footy, the Dogs’ likelihood of resurrecting their season appears to be like slim.

There’s no denying the Energy have been good – they give the impression of being again to their damaging greatest across the floor, with their ball motion slick and their ahead construction buzzing way more properly than in earlier rounds. They, a minimum of, look able to getting on a run in direction of September – who would have thought {that a} month in the past?

Robbie Gray of the Power marks the ball in front of Tim O'Brien of the Bulldogs.

Robbie Grey of the Energy marks the ball in entrance of Tim O’Brien of the Bulldogs. (Photograph by James Elsby/AFL Photographs through Getty Photographs)

Probably the most spectacular efficiency of the night time, although, got here from Fremantle, with the caveat of their opposition being the turnover-happy North Melbourne.

Lacking each Matt Taberner and Rory Lobb in assault, the Dockers may simply have opted to relaxation on their miserly defence and North’s lack of Nick Larkey, and grind out a win. As an alternative, they aimed to dazzle, and produce their small forwards into the match.

The outcome was an attention grabbing, fast-moving model of footy that exhibits the Dockers have loads of strings to their bow. David Mundy stays among the finest within the enterprise at delivering inside 50, whereas half-backs Hayden Younger and Jordan Clark additionally pushed up the bottom to assist their forwards feast.

Sean Darcy was immense within the ruck, serving to the Dockers boss the clearances 38-31; whereas the Roos’ forays ahead have been consistently stymied by their poor foot expertise. 67 inside 50s to 32 is a colossal disparity; certainly, North’s defence in all probability did an inexpensive job to maintain them to ‘just’ 15 objectives.

However it was an evening for the Dockers’ smalls, and confirmed even with out Taberner and Lobb, this Freo stay greater than able to kicking a profitable rating. Bailey Banfield, usually on the fringes of this crew, may have had a giant bag however for inaccuracy; he, Sam Switkowski, Michael Walters and Lachie Schultz terrified the Roos’ backline all night time, and the objectives flowed in consequence.

Actually, the Roos’ greatest participant – and their most essential all yr – was Ben McKay. An intercepting titan within the third quarter, his knee damage that noticed him subbed out at three quarter time got here too late to be the loss of life knell on the Roos’ victory probabilities, however may show ultra-costly down the observe.

The one knock on Freo in current weeks has been their ahead line, with questions as to whether or not they can problem the very best within the enterprise – Melbourne – on the attacking entrance. On the proof of tonight – and you may’t dismiss that North Melbourne caveat – the reply is a convincing sure.

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