The Western Bulldogs have ridden their luck and survived a plague of inaccuracy in front of goal to open their account for the AFL season with a scrappy 11-point win over Sydney.
Cody Weightman kicked four goals and Tim English starred as the Dogs withstood a second-half challenge in their 9.17 (71) to 9.6 (60) victory on Thursday night.
A 50-metre penalty against Jack Macrae gifted Swans youngster Errol Gulden a goal that trimmed the margin to five points with one minute left, but the home side hung on in a gripping finish.
Dogs captain Marcus Bontempelli kicked the sealing goal with just seconds remaining after Tom Liberatore broke away from a crucial stoppage on the wing.
There was a sour note for the Dogs when Zaine Cordy was being substituted out with concussion before half-time and there may be concerns over English’s big bump on Nick Blakey late in the match.
Sydney lost ruckman Tom Hickey to a knee injury during the third term.
There were shades of the 2016 grand final as the Swans were left aggrieved at a lop-sided free kick count that favoured the home side 31-14.
But the Bulldogs reversed a key trend from their winless opening two rounds to dominate the contested possession count (155-130) and enjoyed a significant advantage in forward-50 entries (59-49).
Josh Dunkley (31 disposals and six clearances), Jack Macrae (24 and six) and Lachie Hunter (28 and four) were all prominent, while English finished with 24 disposals, eight clearances, eight marks and five tackles.
Ryan Gardner had the job on Sydney superstar Lance Franklin, who kicked two goals from 19 disposals, while Bailey Dale and Caleb Daniel rebounded well off half-back.
Hickey was busy in an entertaining duel with English, gathering 18 disposals, six clearances and 21 hit-outs before he limped off and left Joel Amartey to shoulder the ruck load.
Luke Parker (22 disposals and six clearances) fought hard for a Swans side that was outgunned at the source.
The Bulldogs held Sydney to just one goal in the first half and should have led by more than 25 points at the main break but wasted a string of chances in kicking 1.7 to 0.0 for the second term.
The visitors burst to life with three quick goals upon the restart, trimming the margin to single figures, but were held at bay as Weightman bobbed up with two important goals.
There was a third-quarter scare for the Bulldogs when Bontempelli reached across a charging Paddy McCartin in a marking contest and was hit in the left shoulder, then landed on it as he fell.
The Bulldogs’ skipper got up sore but stayed on the field.
Source: AFL NEWS ABC