Griffen’s best can’t save Dogs

WESTERN BULLDOGS    6.2    8.3   11.5    13.7 (85)
SYDNEY SWANS               3.2   10.5   16.9   26.11 (167)

The Sydney Swans have overcome a spirited Western Bulldogs, and an incredible club record 47-disposal game from Ryan Griffen, to take clear top spot on the AFL ladder with an 82-point victory.

In a strange round of upsets, where two of the top four succumbed to hungrier teams more lowly on the ladder, the Swans were challenged, outplayed and trialled early, yet romped away in the second half to record an imposing victory.

The Bulldogs were inspired and firing early, leading the initial exchanges 10 disposals to one and putting two goals on the Swans in a matter of minutes. Ryan Griffen was dominating, he had 16 disposals in the first quarter, was clearing at will and repeatedly pumping it into the dogs forward fifty – to numerous dangerous targets, including Brian Lake who had pushed up the ground. The normally composed and stingy Swans defence was looking stretched and rushed into poor decisions.

Mike Pike was proving to be the only damaging forward for the Swans – his bulk and speed difficult to contain as he converted two of the few forward forays for Sydney. The dogs had six goals from five different goal kickers in their best first quarter for the season to take a 38 to 20 point lead at quarter time.

Sydney’s other makeshift forward option of late, Lewis Roberts-Thompson bobbed up again to give the Swans an ideal start to the second quarter – yet Griffen was sill near unstoppable, and a wide-open, low stoppage game was suiting the bullies, and it was only two goals from turnovers that got the Swans back in it. It took another goal from a ruck man in Shane Mumford that finally saw Sydney take the lead for the first time approaching the main break. Robert Murphy – one of the old guys of footy – got a really bad call against him and the mood shifted and Sydney piled on three quick goals to take a 14-point lead at half-time, despite being roundly outplayed.

There were also some concerns for co-captain Jarrad McVeigh who spent the last part of the quarter on the bench dazed and confused after copping a heavy, front-on hit while low over the footy. Griffen ended up with 26 disposals for the half, yet the bold bulldog run from the back was drying up, and it was increasingly at his own defensive end of the ground he was getting his touches.

The Western Bulldogs have been outscored to the tune of 56 goals in their second halves this season, and when Adam Goodes finally injected himself meaningly into the contest with a goal a minute into the third quarter it seemed like that trend would continue. Spirited resistance succumbed to inevitability and the Swans kicked six goals in the third, and ten in the last quarter to notch their highest score for five years and ended up running out 82-point winners.

Griffen ended up with a herculean 47 disposals, and was ably supported by his skipper Mathew Boyd with 35 touches, yet their contributions couldn’t help against the quick rebound, spread and quality of the Swans in the second half.

The Dogs have some promising youngsters, and welcomed the return of Adam Cooney to the top level, albeit an underwhelming one while the Swans skip a game clear at the head of the ladder with two huge games ahead that will determine their finals fate.

Sydney will be awaiting further scans on an ankle injury to the big Canadian Mike Pike, who was playing one of his best games for the club before he was forced off in the third quarter. In what could be another example of astute player recycling, they subbed on Mitch Morton for his first blood with the bloods, and his first touch was a hand pass that freed Goodes for an easy goal, his second a goal of his own. Josh Kennedy returned to his classy best with 34 touches, while Goods’ three goals and increased involvement was timely with what lies ahead.

Votes:
3 – Griffen
2 – Kennedy
1 – Pyke

GOALS:

Western Bulldogs: Addison 4, Dickson 3, Giansiracusa 2, Cordy, Johannisen, Lake, Picken
Sydney Swans: Goodes 3, Mumford 3, Pyke 3, Roberts-Thomson 3, Hannebery 2, McGlynn 2, O’Keefe 2, Reid 2, Jack, Jetta, Kennedy, McVeigh, Morton, Parker

BEST:

Western Bulldogs: Griffen, Boyd, Dickson, Minson, Smith Addison
Sydney Swans: Kennedy, Pyke, Jack, Goodes, O’Keefe, Parker, Roberts-Thomson, Grundy

INJURIES:

Western Bulldogs: Nil
Sydney Swans: Pyke (ankle)

SUBSTITUTES

Western Bulldogs: Adam Cooney replaced Ayce Cordy in the third quarter

Sydney Swans: Mitch Morton replaced Mike Pyke in the fourth quarter

Reports: Nil

Crowd: 19,396 at Etihad Stadium

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