At that point the script appeared eerily similar to the one Carlton had read a week earlier against the Brisbane Lions when they overcame a deficit of 37 points in the second term to rattle home and win.
However the Bulldogs could not afford to lose to the Blues for a second time this year, particularly after being so dominant in the first half when they had 72 more disposals to open up a 21-point lead.
Veteran Dog Matt Suckling led the way as he managed to break Carlton’s momentum with a long left-foot goal from the boundary before finding teammate Tory Dickson inside 50, with Dickson kicking the goal to settle things down at the final break.
With the Bulldogs a man down with Tom Liberatore off injured, the Blues started to believe as their lead stretched to seven points when Dale Thomas hit the post. The turnaround took courage with the Bulldogs beginning the final quarter with similar intent to how they began the match.
Youngster Bailey Smith showed his class when he took advantage of the midfielders’ slick ball movement, kicking the opening goal of the term. Soon enough the ball took up residence in the Bulldogs’ front half, with Carlton once again finding it difficult to win the ball back.
The Bulldogs kicked 34 points clear but Carlton came again to kick five consecutive goals in seven minutes.
SCANS ON LIBBA’S KNEE
Just days after signing a two-year-deal to stick with the Bulldogs, Liberatore went off the ground after hurting his right knee midway through the second quarter. Given Liberatore has twice ruptured his anterior cruciate ligament there were fears about what damage he may have done. However the initial assessment from the Bulldogs medical staff was that Liberatore’s knee was jarring. They were hopeful scans would provide good news but weren’t prepared to commit to a diagnosis yet.
JOSH DUNKLEY SET THE SCENE
All discussion pre-game centred around how the influence of Carlton’s Patrick Cripps and Bulldogs Marcus Bontempelli could be reduced. Few raised the prospect of Josh Dunkley doing the damage in the first quarter with 15 disposals, four tackles and a goal. He dominated the contest as the Bulldogs set up the game with an explosive first half an hour to lead by 19 points at the first break. Given they were ranked last for the first 10 minutes of games this season, it was an important contribution.
DAISY HAD A MOMENT
In his 250th game Thomas gathered the loose ball early in the third quarter and and launched a bomb from outside the 50-metre mark that sailed through for a goal. He took off to celebrate like he was hitting the dancefloor to liven up a charity night. It was a brilliant moment for the veteran who has overcome an ankle injury that robbed him of so much kicking power that he once said kicking became like hitting a tennis ball with a thong. Thomas showed he is at his best when he is having fun, with the veteran having plenty to offer.
CARLTON 2.1 6.3 10.9 15.10 (100)
WESTERN BULLDOGS 5.2 9.6 11.9 15.13 (103)
GOALS – Carlton: C Curnow 7, Cuningham 2, Murphy, McGovern, Kreuzer, Dow, Thomas, McKay.
Western Bulldogs: Lloyd 3, Lipinski 2, Dickson 2, English 2, McLean, Dunkley, Gardner, Suckling, Smith, Naughton,
BEST – Western Bulldogs: Dunkley, Bontempelli, Macrae, Daniel, Suckling, Lipinksi, English.
Carlton: Charlie Curnow, Walsh, Simpson, Cripps, Thomas, Kreuzer.
INJURIES – Carlton: E Curnow (leg). Western Bulldogs: Liberatore (knee), Trengove (shoulder).
CROWD – 35,479 at Marvel Stadium.
Peter Ryan is a sports reporter with The Age covering AFL, horse racing and other sports.