K rock Football

Dees beat Dogs to go top

MELBOURNE has put a turbulent week behind them and reaffirmed their AFL premiership credentials with a 28-point win over the Western Bulldogs in a top-of-the-table clash.

The Demons executed their defensive plan to a tee and produced a blistering start, piling on six first-quarter goals to lay the groundwork for a 13.9 (87) to 8.11 (59) victory at Marvel Stadium on Friday night.

Clayton Oliver (32 disposals) and Christian Petracca (24) led an even performance in the Demons’ engine room, which spread the workload and outclassed the vaunted Bulldogs midfield.

Bayley Fritsch and Tom McDonald kicked three goals apiece, while key defenders Steven May and Jake Lever combined to keep dangerous Bulldogs forwards Aaron Naughton and Josh Bruce quiet for most of the night.

The resounding victory was the perfect way for Melbourne to bounce back from a shock loss to Adelaide six days earlier and sent them back to the top of the ladder, one game clear of the Bulldogs.

It came after the blockbuster clash almost had to be postponed as a result of Victoria’s latest coronavirus outbreak.

The game was played in front of empty stands and only got the green light on Friday morning after all Melbourne players and staff received negative COVID-19 test results.

The Bulldogs had been through a similar scare earlier in the week.

Both sides took 9-1 records into the contest and the Demons burst out of the blocks, with James Harmes kicking the opening goal inside 20 seconds.

Their 6.5 (41) was almost double the previous highest first-quarter score against the Bulldogs this season, resulting in the home side’s first quarter-time deficit of 2021.

The 27-point margin came largely off the back of the Demons’ pressure and sound defensive structure in the front half, which caused a raft of Bulldogs turnovers.

The night got worse for the Dogs when debutant Riley Garcia was substituted out of the game because of a head knock.

Quick goals to Bruce and Tim English cut the margin in the second term but Melbourne managed to keep the match on their terms and the Dogs at arm’s length.

Sam Weideman had been quiet for most of the night but bobbed up to kick two goals in time-on of the third quarter, putting the Demons 35 points clear.

Bulldogs skipper Marcus Bontempelli inked a bumper new four-year contract during the week and managed 30 disposals, but lacked his usual influence.

Jack Macrae (36 disposals) was one of the Dogs’ best and Taylor Duryea kept Dees livewire Kysaiah Pickett quiet.

Bruce finished with three goals, with two of them coming in the final term when the game was over.

(C) AAP 2021

MELBOURNE 6.5 9.6 12.8 13.9 (87)

WESTERN BULLDOGS 2.2 6.5 6.8 8.11 (59)

Goals: Melbourne: B Fritsch 3 T McDonald 3 S Weideman 2 C Petracca J Harmes J Jordon K Pickett M Gawn. Western Bulldogs: J Bruce 3 T English 2 A Naughton C Daniel C Weightman.

Umpires: Ray Chamberlain, Andrew Stephens, Nathan Williamson.

Venue: Marvel Stadium.