THE Western Bulldogs have kept their finals hopes alive with a 20-point victory in an AFL shootout with arch-rivals GWS at Giants Stadium.
The goals flowed in a blistering and even contest until the Bulldogs kicked away with five unanswered majors late in the third term to set up a 19.11 (125) to 16.9 (105) triumph on Saturday night.
Enigmatic forwards Toby Greene and Cody Weightman set the tone for the old-school ‘goal-fest’ with three each in the first term – the Giants co-captain finishing with a career-high seven while the Bulldogs’ young gun booted five.
Aaron Naughton also kicked five majors for the Bulldogs while Jack Macrae (37 disposals, one goal), Adam Treloar (31) and skipper Marcus Bontempelli (28, one) found plenty of the ball.
Jesse Hogan slotted three for the Giants as co-captain Stephen Coniglio (32 touches, two goals) and Tom Green (32) continued their strong form.
A Bulldogs loss to GWS would have left the 2021 grand finalists two wins out of the eight with nine rounds remaining but a 7-6 record keeps them within touching distance of the top eight.
But the victory could come at a cost for the Bulldogs with defender Taylor Duryea landing awkwardly before he was subbed out with a knee injury early in the opening term.
Weightman’s night also looked set to end early when he suffered a nasty elbow injury and had to be helped from the field in the third term but the 21-year-old returned shortly after and played out the match despite heavy strapping on his arm.
The Giants were also hit hard on a night of injury carnage with Braydon Preuss subbed out in the second term with a lower leg issue and James Peatling forced to sit out the last quarter due to hamstring tightness.
There were few signs early of the rivalry that has become one of the most heated in the AFL as a fast and furious opening term produced 11 goals and a three-point lead for the Bulldogs.
The shackles remained off in the second quarter as the teams combined for the highest half-time total score this season with the Bulldogs leading 10.6 to 9.7.
The teams also set a new mark for the highest combined score at the final change this year with 16.9 to 11.8 but the Bulldogs were able to surge to a 29-point lead off the back of winning clearances 14-4 for the third term.
The match continued in similar fashion in the final quarter to end with the highest combined score of 230 so far this season.
The Bulldogs play Hawthorn next on Friday night while the Giants will take on Collingwood on Sunday week.
(C) AAP 2022