TIM English was the star turn in a three-pronged tall forward set-up as the Western Bulldogs continued their unbeaten start to the AFL season with a 19-point win over the Brisbane Lions at Mars Stadium.
A cold and windy day in Ballarat was hardly tailor-made for marking forwards, but English (three goals and nine marks), Aaron Naughton (two goals and eight marks) and Josh Bruce (one goal) still combined for the bulk of the Bulldogs’ tally in the 10.13 (73) to 8.6 (54) victory.
Eight days ago, Bruce had slotted a career-best 10 goals in the Good Friday flogging of hapless North Melbourne.
Against the Lions, he mostly played the third wheel to high-flying duo English and Naughton.
The Bulldogs had the better of the early going on Saturday.
But they only led by eight points at the first change after Laitham Vandermeer was hit with a 50m penalty for moving on the mark, allowing Harris Andrews to slot a late goal.
With Naughton and Bruce both hitting the scoreboard in the second term, the Bulldogs pushed their advantage to 26 points at the long break.
The Lions briefly threatened to get back into the contest in the third quarter when they kicked successive goals for the first time through Zac Bailey and Eric Hipwood.
The Dogs were able to steady through the impressive English, who kicked a difficult set shot into the wind after being paid a contentious mark, allowing the home team to hold a 22-point lead at the final change.
The Lions kicked the first two goals of the fourth term – including a remarkable dribbling effort by Joe Daniher from outside the 50m arc near the boundary line.
But as they had done for most of the day, it was the Bulldogs who had the last laugh with Tom Liberatore landing a long-range goal with just eight seconds left on the clock.
Onballers Jack Macrae and Marcus Bontempelli, and defenders Alex Keath and Bailey Dale played well for the Bulldogs, while the Lions were well served by ruckman Oscar McInerney, midfielder Hugh McCluggage and backman Daniel Rich.
The Lions return to the Gabba to take on Essendon in Round 5, while the Bulldogs will look to extend their unbeaten start to the season against Gold Coast at Marvel Stadium.
(C) AAP 2021
WESTERN BULLDOGS 3.3 7.6 9.10 10.13 (73)
BRISBANE LIONS 2.1 3.4 6.6 8.6 (54)
Goals: Western Bulldogs: T English 3 A Naughton 2 B Smith J Bruce J Macrae L Hunter T Liberatore. Brisbane Lions: E Hipwood 2 H Andrews H McCluggage J Daniher J Lyons T Fullarton Z Bailey.
Umpires: Leigh Fisher, Nick Brown, Hayden Gavine.
Official Crowd: 7,387 at Eureka Stadium.