Top side Swans hold off injury-ravaged Bulldogs in AFL

By Roger Vaughan
Updated May 24 2024 - 12:10am, first published May 23 2024 - 11:45pm
Ladder-leading Sydney have hung on for a 14-point win over the Western Bulldogs. (Joel Carrett/AAP PHOTOS)
Ladder-leading Sydney have hung on for a 14-point win over the Western Bulldogs. (Joel Carrett/AAP PHOTOS)

Top side Sydney have fought off a late challenge from the injury-ravaged Western Bulldogs for a 14-point AFL win at Marvel Stadium.

The Swans will go into their mid-season bye a game-and-a-half clear at the top of the ladder with a 10-1 record after Thursday night's 16.6 (102) to 12.16 (88) victory.

Swans star Chad Warner kicked four goals and took a candidate for mark of the year in the third term as they broke clear after halftime.

Sydney led by 30 points early in the last term, but the Bulldogs rallied to only trail by eight with less than five minutes left.

Then a contentious 50m free kick was paid against Latham Vandermeer and that gifted a goal to Hayden McLean to confirm the win.

"What can you say? Whether it's there or not, I don't really know. Ultimately, the decision was made and we live with it," Bulldogs coach Luke Beveridge said of the 50m penalty.

After spraying 8.22 in their win over GWS last week, the Swans paid dearly for their inaccuracy and kicked 4.5 in the last quarter.

Playing his first game this season for the Bulldogs, Anthony Scott had to be subbed out of the game after only three minutes with concussion.

Scott clashed heads with Harry Cunningham as they contested a ground ball.

Then key forward Aaron Naughton hurt his right knee when tackled by Swans defender Lewis Melican.

Naughton needed help as he limped off the ground, amid fears he had suffered a ruptured anterior cruciate ligament.

The Bulldogs are hopeful it is not that serious.

"Hopefully, it's not as extreme as an (ACL), but you never can tell," Beveridge said.

Midfielder Ed Richards had been the Dogs' best player, but he was also forced out of the game with concussion after a head clash during the third term.

Beveridge praised his team's character, while noting they botched some opportunities.

"All-in-all, it showed great integrity in what the boys did," he said.

"It's just a shame we had a bit of bad luck. You never lose and feel like a winner, but in my books our players are winners tonight - they were outstanding.

"We just made some monumental blues and missed some monumental chances, to give ourselves any real chance to win."

After eight lead changes in the first half, the home side led by four points and were asking serious questions of the ladder leaders.

But Swans key defender Nick Blakey was rock-solid in defence and Warner stepped up in the second half.

Warner cut loose in the third term, taking a candidate for mark of the year that resulted in his fourth goal.

He kicked three of Sydney's five goals for the third quarter as they broke out to a 19-point lead and also put through the first of the last term.

Swans coach John Longmire looked animated in the box during the game and said there would be things to work on once they return from their bye.

"They (Bulldogs) played well, but we didn't play as well as what we would have liked," he said.

"In the end, they had a number of scoring shots and we were well beaten in the contest.

"There's a few things to come out of it, for when we get back after the break and dissect, which is probably a good thing."

Defender Liam Jones was mighty for the Bulldogs and key forward Jamarra Ugle-Hagan kicked three goals, including an outstanding snap that brought them back to within two majors in the last term.

Australian Associated Press