A remarkable late fightback wasn’t enough to get Werribee over the line against Footscray at Avalon Airport Oval on Sunday, the Bulldogs holding on for an eight-point victory to retain their grip on the HealthWest Cup.
What proved to be a thrilling conclusion to the VFL’s round seven action looked anything but when the Dogs led by 58 points late in the third term, the threat of several heated scuffles boiling over appearing to be the only likely point of interest.
But spurred by some back-half brilliance from Dane McFarlane and four second-half goals to Matt Munro, the home side piled on 8.4 to two behinds to close out the match, in the end only beaten by the clock after a final quarter of total dominance.
While Footscray did most of the damage on the scoreboard early in the third term, Werribee coach John Lamont said his side was hurt most by a second term in which it scored just 1.5 and found difficulty generating attacking options.
“We were inaccurate in the second quarter. We had the wind and we didn’t make the most of it,” said Lamont.
“Our learning from this is that we need to be more consistent and be more accurate early in the game.
“Footscray is a good team, as we know, and we just didn’t gain enough momentum, generate enough inside-50s, or generate enough scores to be closer at half time and into the third quarter.”
Without managing to mark the milestone of his 100th VFL game with a goal of his own, Andrew Hooper may well have provided the catalyst for the late momentum shift.
His forward toe-poke to give Munro his first at the 23-minute mark of the third term broke a run of five straight Bulldogs goals and helped turn the game on its head.
Against both the run of play and the wind, Werribee began to make inroads, though it still stared down a 41-point deficit at the final change.
But with Sam Collins standing typically tall in defence, McFarlane and Ryley Barrack leading the charge off half back, and Kurt Aylett racking up possession in the middle, the home side looked like it might just be starting to believe it could climb the mountain.
Having implored their troops to take the game on, Lamont and his coaching staff showed some daring of their own as they shuffled the magnets. Then, as the rain that had threatened all day finally began to fall, everything else began to fall into place.
As Munro emerged as the danger man up forward, Tom Gribble picked up where Matt Hanson left off in taking control of the clearances, Kye Declase pushed up onto the wing and provided an important link-up option, and defender Nick Coughlan was thrown forward to join the scoring frenzy, in the process joining second-gamer Joel Bennett in registering his first goal in the “big W”.
When skipper Michael Sodomaco got into the scoring action with his first of the afternoon, the margin was back within single figures for the first time since early in the opening term.
But with the clock by then at 30min, it seemed clear to all but the home side itself – manic to the end – that there had been too much to do in too little time.
With 13 kicks and six marks off half back, McFarlane finished as best afield for the hosts, a one-handed screamer running back with the flight of the ball in the final term providing the exclamation point on a stellar afternoon.
Josh Corbett enjoyed another strong game up forward as Werribee’s other main attacking weapon, his two first-quarter goals crucial in keeping his side in the hunt early and his third and final helping kick-start the fourth-quarter blitz.
With 26 disposals and 10 tackles, Aylett was superb both offensively and defensively through the midfield, while Joe Maishman’s team-high 11 tackles helped cover for the absence of the suspended Ben Moloney and Dom Brew.
Lamont highlighted a number of notable performances but said his side ultimately needed a more even team contribution.
“We had some really good contributors; but to be honest, there was probably too much left to too few,” Lamont said.
“We needed a few more players to weigh in in those first and third quarters in particular, so there’s plenty of learning.
“It’s not back to the drawing board, but we’ll certainly work on a number of things this week.”
With its run of five consecutive home games complete, Werribee will now prepare to face Sandringham at Trevor Barker Beach Oval on Sunday in the first of back-to-back games on the road.
Werribee: 2.0 3.5 6.6 11.10 (76)
Footscray: 5.1 8.3 13.5 13.6 (84)
Werribee: M Munro 4, J Corbett 3, T Gribble, J Bennett, N Coughlan, M Sodomaco
Footscray: J Schache 3, W Hayes 2, A Monfries 2, N Mullenger-McHugh 2, A Tashevski-Beckwith, J Shea, L Jong, C Porter
Werribee: D McFarlane, K Aylett, J Corbett, M Munro, S Collins, T Gribble
Footscray: W Hayes, L Jong, C Porter, T English, J Schache, S Biggs