The Western Bulldogs have rediscovered some form to beat Essendon by 49 points in their elimination final in Launceston.
- The win was the Bulldogs’ first in a finals series since they claimed the 2016 premiership
- They will play the Brisbane Lions in the semi-finals, with the winner to face the Power
- The Bombers did not kick a goal in the final two quarters against the Bulldogs
The Bulldogs limped into the finals in fifth place after being one of the competition’s pacesetters for much of the season.
But they proved too strong for the Bombers in wet and slippery conditions on Sunday afternoon, winning 13.7 (85) to 4.12 (36).
The result was the Bulldogs’ first finals win since breaking their 62-year premiership drought in 2016.
The Bulldogs will now play the Brisbane Lions in a semi-final at the Gabba on Saturday.
The winner will face the Power in the second preliminary final at Adelaide Oval on September 11.
Geelong and GWS will meet in a semi-final at Perth Stadium on Friday night, with the winner to play Melbourne at the same venue on September 10.
Cody Weightman starred in the rain for the Bulldogs in Launceston, with the small forward kicking four goals.
The Bombers, who started the stronger of the two sides but could not convert their chances, have not tasted finals success since 2004.
They have now lost six straight elimination finals.
The Bulldogs were ahead by just 34-31 at the main break, before flying home courtesy of an eight-goal second half.
The Bombers failed to kick a goal in the final two quarters. The last club to go goalless in the second half of a finals match was Geelong in 1956.
Weightman nailed two goals in the crucial third term, one from a tight angle after a free kick for a seemingly innocuous push, while Josh Schache justified his late inclusion with his second for the match.
Schache, who was promoted from the emergencies moments before the first bounce, also set up a crucial goal to give his side a four-goal break early in the last quarter.
Aaron Naughton finished with three goals and Mitch Hannan kicked two in what ended up being a convincing victory.
Essendon’s Darcy Parish was one of the best on ground in the first half and finished with a team-high 35 disposals for the match.
Jake Stringer had his moments, snapping the first goal of the contest and an important major to keep the Bombers in touch just before half-time.
Tempers flared at the end of the third quarter after Essendon was awarded a free kick for a hit off the ball.
The Bombers had the better of inside 50s in the first quarter, but trailled 13-10 at the first change.
The Bulldogs went on a three-goal run early in the second term, with Weightman grabbing his second from a free kick for a high tackle.
Jack Macrae topped the match disposal count with 36 for the Bulldogs. His teammate Tom Liberatore was next best with 35.