Bulldogs' Achilles heel brutally exposed in loss

1 month ago 14
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The Western Bulldogs' Achilles heel has once again been exposed after going down in a thriller against Port Adelaide that leaves the team's top four hopes hanging by a thread.

Luke Beveridge's side coughed up the final three goals of the match to the Power, who led for less than ten total minutes throughout the match, but stole the 9. 12. (66) to 10. 4. (64) win at Marvel Stadium.

Port Adelaide built its win off the back of a 35-28 win in clearances and a whopping 51-18 win in hitouts, with ruckman Scott Lycett having his way with Lewis Young, who played in the ruck with Tim English deployed up forward in Josh Bruce's absence.

Following his side's third consecutive loss, which has seen the team slide from first to potentially fifth at the end of Round 23, Beveridge once again lamented the lack of a strong ruck option, seemingly taking a shot at English.

Marcus Bontempelli and the Bulldogs could end the home and away season outside the top four (Getty)

"The outcome of the ruck battle is standard for us," he told reporters in his post-match press conference. "That's what happens every week."

"We threw Lewy Young a challenge, I thought he stood up as well as Tim has for most of the year in that role.

"There's no doubt, we go to the well every week. We don't have a dominant ruckman."

With the ruck position a problem last season, the Bulldogs recruited veteran Stefan Martin to the club to assist English, but the 34-year-old has managed just seven matches this season, and has not played since Round 12.

Just a week out from what could potentially be a sudden-death final, Beveridge said Martin was no guarantee to play next week, despite being scheduled to play in a scratch match this weekend.

Beveridge isn't banking on veteran ruckman Stefan Martin being ready for next week's final (Getty)

"Stef Martin has been out, he's played one game in three and a half months, and he's only had the one full training session," he said.

"You can't pick a player on the back of that preparation, so we've just got to make do and that's not easy.

"He's not a player that we can hang our hat on. He hasn't had the training load that's required to play the game at this level for long enough, especially a final."

Injuries to key position players have thrown once again caused Beveridge to throw players into unfamiliar positions, and Geelong great Cameron Mooney said the instability was a major concern heading into the finals.

The Bulldogs' ruck shortage meant Bontempelli was forced to take on Port big man Scott Lycett at some stages (Getty)

"They don't know what their best team looks like, they've got no idea," he told Fox Footy's First Crack.

"There's a lot of players, you look at them right now, and you're going, 'Where are they?'. They don't know what their best team is, and the ruck role didn't work tonight.

"Going into next week, a big final, in the middle of the ground where they've been so dominant all year, they're in a bit of all-sorts at the moment."

Beveridge's subtle shot at English didn't go unnoticed by St Kilda great Leigh Montagna.

"It was a clip [to Tim English]. I think you can sense the frustration," he said.

Travis Boak and Ollie Wines were dominant in the middle while also hitting the scoreboard for Port Adelaide (Getty)

"He did the exact same thing last year about Tim English, so obviously there's some frustrations that Tim English just doesn't get it done in the ruck, so they went with him as the pure forward."

It was a sensational result for the Power, who could seal a top-two finish and a home final next week if other results go their way in the final round.

Brownlow fancy Ollie Wines was sensational once again with 34 disposals and a crucial fourth-quarter goal, while the ageless Travis Boak added 31 disposals and two goals.

The win leaves the Bulldogs precariously placed, with the Brisbane Lions a chance to steal fourth spot on the ladder if they win by a large enough margin against the West Coast Eagles on Saturday afternoon.

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