The Western Bulldogs have gained the outright lead on the AFLW ladder after a strong display against Collingwood in Moe, seeing off a late comeback to win by eight points and making the Magpies the first team to be out of the premiership race.
The Bulldogs were dominant in every aspect of the match except for the scoreboard – at least for the first three quarters – keeping the Magpies in the game by giving away four goals from free kicks.
Emma Kearney shrugged off a strong Brittany Bonnici tag to still be at her brilliant best, and Ellie Blackburn relished the opportunity to run free through the centre of the ground in a phenomenal individual game.
Brooke Lochland backed up with two goals after her seven last week, and the likes of Monique Conti, Naomi Ferres and Bonnie Toogood all continued their impressive seasons to cement the Dogs’ premiership favouritism.
The Bulldogs picked up where they left off last weekend against Carlton, bursting out of the blocks to get a comfortable lead by quarter time.
Ellie Blackburn took advantage of the open style of footy, bombing the ball deep inside the forward 50 and allowing Bonnie Toogood to gather and dribble it through from close range.
Collingwood would register just one inside 50 for the entire first quarter, but it came from a 50 metre penalty to Meg Hutchins which allowed the former defender to kick her second goal of the season.
But Aisling Utri was quick to negate the goal, stripping the football from her opponent and breaking a tackle before throwing the footy on the boot for a goal.
The Dogs were somewhat wayward in the first term, however, but a silly 50 metre penalty from Lauren Tesoriero for not giving the ball back gave Aasta O’Connor a shot at goal from 35 metres out, a range she is more than comfortable with.
After O’Connor had slotted her team’s third of the first term, the Bulldogs boasted a 16-point lead after 15 minutes of footy.
However, a few undisciplined acts left the door open for the Magpies who took their opportunities.
They would kick two more goals from free kicks in the second term, first from Caitlyn Edwards then from Amelia Barden.
But in between those goals was Brooke Lochland soccering through a goal off Monique Conti’s drop, her first after kicking seven against Carlton last week.
Tempers flared nearing the end of the quarter when Britt Bonnici, who shut down Daisy Pearce last week and was limiting Emma Kearney, slung Kearney into the Fox Footy crew on the sideline.
The Dogs were adamant that they would not get sucked into that style of play, and despite giving away three goals from free kicks, were all over their opponents in the first half.
The problem with tagging Kearney is that so many of the Bulldogs midfielders are able to step up, and Ellie Blackburn took the opportunity to lead the midfield with both hands.
Kearney still managed eight disposals in the first half, more than any Magpies player, and she started the third term in sensational fashion.
The Bulldogs star burst out of the middle from the first centre bounce and bombed long to Lochland, who took the mark on her chest and kicked a regulation set shot.
But again, another undisciplined act gave Edwards the chance to kick her second goal and Collingwood’s fourth goal of the day, all from free kicks against the Dogs.
Though the margin was only 11 points, it was clear that the Bulldogs were a much better team, and it looked like the Magpies would be kept at an arm’s length all day despite their endeavour.
Toogood continued to be active in the forward line, chopping off a kick and delivering an underground handball to Blackburn in the goal square for a simple tap-in, and restoring the three-goal lead before three-quarter time.
The Magpies peppered the goals early in the fourth quarter, but a defensive lapse up the other end allowed Nicole Callinan to tap in another easy goal after all the Collingwood defenders went up in the contest.
In a last attempt to come back into the game, the Magpies threw Chloe Molloy forward and she had an immediate impact by kicking a major.
Molloy almost kicked her second moments later which would’ve made the finish very interesting, but Bernardi would reduce the margin to just eight points with under two minutes to play.
Bernardi should’ve had another set shot with plenty of time left, but a silly mistake off the ball reversed the free kick and took away any chance the Magpies had of making a comeback.
The win puts the Bulldogs in outright first, and barring an unbelievable drop in form in the remaining two games, they will be booking a trip to the Grand Final.
For Collingwood, their better performance against GWS, huge win over Melbourne and the spirited effort today all come too late. Had they shown this much desire earlier in the season, they could be well and truly in the premiership race.
Collingwood: 1.0, 3.0, 4.2, 6.5 (41)
Western Bulldogs: 3.4, 4.6, 6.7, 7.7 (49)
Collingwood: Caitlyn Edwards 2, Meg Hutchins, Amelia Barden, Chloe Molloy, Christina Bernardi
Western Bulldogs: Brooke Lochland 2, Bonnie Toogood, Aisling Utri, Aasta O’Connor, Ellie Blackburn, Nicole Callinan
Collingwood: Sarah D’Arcy (13), Jasmine Garner (13), Stephanie Chiocci (12)
Western Bulldogs: Ellie Blackburn (17), Emma Kearney (13), Monique Conti (12)
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