K rock Football

Dockers keep in touch with top two

AN improved Fremantle has inched closer to an inaugural finals berth with a crucial 18-point victory over the Western Bulldogs, leaving the AFLW premiers’ title defence hanging by a thread.

The Dockers prevailed 8.4 (52) to 5.4 (34) in warm and blustery conditions on Sunday at Fremantle Oval in a tense finale to round five.

Kiara Bowers (23 possessions, 16 tackles) inspired the Dockers with a trademark hard-nosed performance, while imposing forward Kellie Gibson booted three goals.

Monique Conti (20 touches) and Katie Brennan (18 possessions) starred in the midfield for the Bulldogs, who have lost three-straight games.

The Dockers join Adelaide and North Melbourne with 16 points in the loaded Conference A, while the bottom-placed Bulldogs are languishing on eight points with two rounds to play.

Befitting the high stakes, it was a tense opening marked by physicality and strong tackling from the Dockers.

But the home side, who were the second highest-scoring team entering the round, struggled to penetrate a miserly Bulldogs defence.

The stalemate ended when livewire Bowers and Gibson slotted majors in the dying stages of the first term to reward the Dockers’ ferocity around the ball.

The Bulldogs scored their first major through Aisling Utri just 10 seconds into the second quarter and it sparked them into action.

Led brilliantly by Conti, the Bulldogs played with flair and purpose reminiscent of their premiership season.

Former No.1 draft pick Isabel Huntington made a quiet start in her long-anticipated return from a major knee injury.

But she showcased her enormous talent with a strong mark and goal late in the second term to trigger celebrations from the Bulldogs’ players.

Moving forward after halftime, Brennan snapped a brilliant goal to continue the Bulldogs’ momentum but Gibson and Gemma Houghton countered at the other end, as the Dockers held a six-point lead at the last change.

In a see-sawing final term, Sabreena Duffy lifted with two goals to power the Dockers to their fourth win of the season.

© AAP 2019

FREMANTLE 2.1 3.2 5.2 8.4 (52)

WESTERN BULLDOGS 0.1 3.1 4.2 5.4 (34)

Goals: Fremantle: K Gibson 3 G Houghton 2 S Duffy 2 K Bowers. Western Bulldogs: A McCarthy A Utri B Lochland I Huntington K Brennan.

Best: Fremantle: K Bowers K Gibson D Hooker S Duffy G Houghton. Western Bulldogs: M Conti K Brennan K Lamb E Blackburn.

Official Crowd: 4,785 at Fremantle Oval.