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Carlton Blues and the Western Bulldogs have both produced seasons that are out of the norm for their respective clubs. The Western Bulldogs, originally Footscray have never been a top team, winning just the one Premiership. Their style of play has often been labelled ugly, not the fluid white-hot running of the 2006 version. Carlton has traditionally been a league powerhouse with 16 flags to their credit. The current Blues side is a world away from a Premiership threat.

The Bulldogs started the game in a fashion you'd expect a fifth ranked side playing fifteenth, with three quick goals. Daniel Giansiracusa kicked the first after finding space before Rohan Smith converted. Matthew Robbins took a trademark strong mark on a full pace lead for the Bulldogs third. Barnaby French got on the board first for the Blues, before Whitnall took a great one handed mark while holding off an opponent. Big name forwards Brad Johnston and Brendan Fevola scored a goal each for their respective  sides to finish the quarter.

After the initial Bulldogs surge, the trend for the game became rebounding half back lines. Heath Scotland and Nick Stevens repelled Bulldog advances while Jordan McMahon and Farren Ray did a similar job in the Bulldogs defensive half. Some of the disposals by both sides were poor and helped explain the  run from the  back.

Carlton were spirited in the second quarter with the Blues taking it right up the Bulldogs. Andrew Carrazzo was getting a stack of possessions along with fellow greenhorns Luke Blackwell and Kade Simpson, while Whitnall bobbed up with his usual array of footy smarts. Whitnall's kick to Blackwell midway through the quarter gave Carlton the lead and brought energy to a subdued crowd. 

Carlton were getting an exciting game out of livewire forward Eddie Betts who kicked one, the Bulldogs got a rare goal from perennial handballer Scott West and another from the ever-reliable Brad Johnson. Their running brigade was headed by Jordan McMahon while Ryan Griffen and  Adam Cooney had some nice touches and Will Minson was the best ruckman on the ground. The Bulldogs took a one point lead to half-time.

Daniel Giansiracusa kicked his third goal to open the third stanza and Cooney kicked the next after a big mark to again put the pressure on the Blues. Again the young Carlton side responded after a 50 meter roost from Simpson. Heath Scotland capitalised on some sloppy clearing from the Bulldogs to seize the lead back for Carlton. Robbins found space to reply for restore the Bulldogs edge.

With Dale Morris keeping Brendan Fevola virtually out of the game it was left to Betts to keep Carlton in it. His second goal was unique. Betts roved off a pack before hurdling the four contesting players who had crashed to the ground. An open goal beckoned and Carlton fans rose to their feet as Betts sent it through. Chris Grant took a big mark but missed for the Bulldogs making it all square at the last change.

An upset loomed with the Bulldogs looking a little off their game and Carlton looking spirited.  The wonderfully persistent Scott West created the first clearance of the last quarter which resulted in another goal for Cooney. An equally classy Whitnall gather and kick to Eddie Betts resulted in a minor score. It was the first in a number of opportunities lost by the Blues.

After a good mark by ruckman French dropping into defense, his handpass was abombinable, ending up in the arms of opponent Minson, who bombed speculatively but truly for a goal.  A minute later Robbins made the margin 17 points by outmarking Corey McGrath. Brad Johnson's goal shortly afterwards was the sealer. Johnson had received the ball and flirted with passing twice before taking the quickest route home with a massive kick and goal from the 50 meter line.

With plenty of time left Nick Stevens did everything right, fooling two opponents before an easy miss from 20 meters in front. Fevola faired no better hitting the post from another gettable shot. The Bulldogs were far more  lethal with veterans Smith and Grant returning fire with two majors.

One plus for Carlton was international recruit Sentanta O'hAilpin who after a steady game in defense kicked his first goal in league footy late in the quarter. In a mirror of his team's fortunes however, his next shot went out on the full. The Bulldogs rued an injury late in the game to Giansiracusa adding to a calf injury to Brett Montgomery.

Best for the Bulldogs on the day were club legend Scott West, closely followed by Johnson, Ray and McMahon. Matthew Robbins and Giansiracusa were busy while Cooney and Minson were good contributors. For the Blues Nick Stevens and Heath Scotland got better as the game went on, while Whitnall had important touches. Carrazzo, Simpson and Blackwell continued to show their promise with good games.

The win for the Bulldogs now lifts them into fourth place on the AFL ladder. The club from Melbourne's tough Western suburbs must wonder quietly where they might sit on the ladder if  the likes of Luke Darcy, Robert Murphy and Mitch Hahn weren't lost to injury.

The Blues must now steel themselves for traditional rivals, Essendon, next week. The Heritage Round clash has very untraditonal consequences for the loser of this game with favoritism for the wooden spoon the unfortunate reality for the loser.

This year's versions of the Bulldogs and Blues are making their own history albeit with vastly different degrees of success. Both clubs are also having to deal with  frustrating sub plots that have emerged throughout season 2006. For the Bulldogs who win many more than lose with their all out attack, injuries are becoming a constant. This may be due to their highly taxing gameplan. Two more key players broke down yesterday exacerbating one of the longest injury lists in the league.

Carlton's young team is learning and are expected  to win every week,  but their fadeouts after getting into winning positions are becoming a major problem. At three quarter time it was anyone's game. Unfortunately a litany of basic errors sabotaged the Carlton cause in the last quarter. This trend must seem like lemon juice in the eyes for Carlton fans, who have seen West Coast and Brisbane run over their side in recent weeks.

WESTERN BULLDOGS 4.3 7.6 10.10 16.14 (110) 
CARLTON 3.2 7.5 10.10 11.14 (80)

Article last changed on Saturday, August 12, 2006 - 5:00 PM EDT


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