Mason Cox was lucky to be paid a mark (one of five contested marks) when Hayden Crozier appeared to touch the ball in the marking contest to put the Magpies back in front midway through the quarter. Goals from within 10 metres to Josh Thomas and Jaidyn Stephenson followed to break the game open before Jamie Elliott sealed the game with a snap with three minutes remaining.
The Western Bulldogs were brave, hanging on until late in the game but eventually the Magpies weight of forward 50 entries overwhelmed them. Marcus Bontempelli was outstanding up until midway through the final quarter while Hayden Crozier was among the Bulldogs’ best.
Slow game lacked instinctive play early. There was just one goal kicked in the first quarter, which thankfully ended in record time after 25 minutes 10 seconds.
Both teams wanted to share the ball around their back half with 164 uncontested possessions and just 58 contested possessions in the first quarter.
That style suited the Western Bulldogs, who seemed desperate to avoid the marking power in Collingwood’s back half, but it made it hard for them to score and worked against the Magpies. They failed to play on instinct as they attempted to construct possession chains carefully.
Only a memorable high mark from Bulldogs’ defender Hayden Crozier midway through the second quarter punctuated the monotony momentarily with Bailey Smith – who showed great promise – also sneaking through the first goal of his four-game AFL career.
Unfortunately for Bulldogs’ forward Aaron Naughton he stopped his teammate Sam Lloyd from kicking a goal when he touched the ball on the goalline while flying for a mark.
With Callum Brown replacing Dayne Beams, who was suffering a virus, the Magpies were dealt another blow after just five minutes when Chris Mayne was injured.
Mayne, playing his 200th game, spilt a high ball deep in defence and in his attempt to salvage the situation copped a knock to the hip pointer which left him in pain on the ground for a minute. He eventually walked to the bench but was not able to return leaving Collingwood one down for the night.
Brodie Grundy matched the performance of Melbourne’s Max Gawn a night earlier, when he dominated the hit-outs, which Collingwood led 26-3 at half-time. However the Bulldogs led the inside 50 count 27-19 and soon after half-time they began to get on top around the contest with a stoppage goal to Josh Dunkley drawing scores level midway through the third quarter.
As the Bulldogs’ confidence grew, Aaron Naughton began to dominate in the air, taking several screamers in the third quarter to change the game’s complexion.
Brodie Mihocek was reported for striking Tom Liberatore in a marking contest in the second quarter but that was the least of the Magpies’ worries. The midfield and forwards weren’t connecting with the speedy Jordan DeGoey, Jamie Elliott, Jaidyn Stephenson and Travis Varcoe struggling to work together to create goals.
In the third quarter Collingwood had 16 inside 50s but could only return 2.3 (15) with one of their goals gifted their way as a result of a poor kick from Tom Liberatore. However they got moving in the final quarter, kicking five goals to run out winners.
1.2 4.6 6.9 11.12 (78)
0.3 2.7 7.8 9.10 (64)
GOALS – Collingwood: Elliott 2, Stephenson 2, Thomas 2, Phillips 2, De Goey, Cox, Varcoe.
Western Bulldogs: Lloyd 2, Naughton, Smith, Dunkley, Suckling, Wallis, Dickson, McLean.
BEST – Collingwood: Grundy, Sidebottom, Varcoe, Moore, Cox, Phillips.
Western Bulldogs: Bontempelli, Crozier, Macrae, Suckling.
INJURIES – Collingwood: Beams (ill) replaced in selected team by C Brown. Mayne (hip).
REPORTS – Collingwood: Mihocek for allegedly striking Liberatore (Western Bulldogs).
CROWD: 59,257 at MCG.
Brodie Grundy (Collingwood) 8
Marcus Bontempelli (Western Bulldogs) 8
Steele Sidebottom (Collingwood) 7
Darcy Moore (Collingwood) 7
Hayden Crozier (Western Bulldogs) 7
Peter Ryan is a sports reporter with The Age covering AFL, horse racing and other sports.