THE Western Bulldogs have beaten a fast-finishing Gold Coast by 19 points to claim consecutive victories for the first time in 2022 and get their AFL season firmly back on track.
Luke Beveridge’s Bulldogs have struggled for consistency all season but in front of a buzzing crowd in Ballarat, snatched the ascendancy via four unanswered third-quarter goals, and never gave up their lead from there to prevail 15.16 (106) to 13.9 (87).
Claiming back-to-back wins evens the inconsistent Bulldogs’ ledger at 5-5 and sets the Suns back to 4-6.
Marcus Bontempelli booted three clutch goals and had 24 disposals and Bailey Smith (34 disposals) continued his stellar season, while Ed Richards and Bailey Williams were influential at half-back and half-forward respectively.
Aaron Naughton looked set to break the game open with three first-half goals but was quietened by Sam Collins in the second half.
The Suns deserved plenty of credit for never giving up, especially after losing Rory Thompson to a second-quarter knee injury while they were also without Jy Farrar (concussion) after halftime.
It was only Thompson’s third game back after missing three seasons through two knee reconstructions.
Joel Jeffrey was brilliant, booting five goals, and was supported by Ben Ainsworth (three goals) while David Swallow worked hard in midfield.
The Bulldogs drew first blood but the Suns got a foothold in the game when Farrar marked on the forward flank but Bulldogs youngster Buku Khamis came in late and high, giving away an immediate 50-metre penalty and subsequently, a goal.
Bulldogs gun Naughton was ominous up forward, booting two first-quarter goals while Jeffrey kicked a pair, including one after the siren, to cut the quarter time deficit to eight points.
Naughton instinctively snapped his third early in the second term but Gold Coast stayed in the game via a clever finish from Ben Ainsworth, while Jeffrey added his third by intercepting a handball then snapping over his head.
The third period proved a cagey affair until Josh Dunkley took a big grab and kicked truly, with 200-gamer Adam Treloar, Robbie McComb and Bontempelli extending the lead beyond five goals.
Jeffrey stemmed the Suns’ bleeding by snapping his fourth and the Suns fought back from there.
The Bulldogs threatened to seal four points on multiple occasions, especially when Bontempelli booted his third from long range.
But Gold Coast fought back time and time again in the final term until McComb soccered his second with 37 seconds left, with Smith hammering home a wonderful goal on the final siren.
(C) AAP 2022