AN exquisite third quarter from South Fremantle in the WAFL qualifying final has driven the Bulldogs to inflict one of West Perth’s biggest losses of the season.
The Falcons challenged for a period in the first half, but could not maintain the effort in an 18.13 (121) to 10.9 (69) defeat at Fremantle Oval.
The skill and execution of the hosts made the visitors look helpless in the third term, as they linked up from defence with ease through the likes of Marlon Pickett (25 disposals, nine marks) and delivered the ball coolly to leading forwards – usually Ben Saunders (four goals) or Mason Shaw (four goals).
Souths had 18 inside 50s to the Falcons’ seven, booting seven goals to one for the term.
Saunders produced a brilliant major early in the stanza, smothering a Nick Rodda kickout, taking possession and sending the ball through from the outside of his boot.
A move of the prolific Ashton Hams (27 touches, seven marks, three goals) forward proved a master stroke after the main break with the small midfielder using his football smarts to find marking positions and kick two third-quarter goals.
The 60-point lead South Fremantle had into the final term, took the sting out of the game, with the Bulldogs easing through four goals in a party time atmosphere.
The final 52-point margin matched the dominance with which South Fremantle began the game, but a section through the second half of the first term and into the second quarter had West Perth appear the better side.
The Bulldogs flew out of the blocks, kicking five unanswered goals to have a 29-point lead just 12 minutes into the contest.
But it was as if the Falcons’ flicked a switch at the halfway point.
Momentum suddenly swung their way after Joel Leeson (two goals) converted West Perth’s first goal from a free kick about 30m out on a tight angle.
Costly turnovers began to creep into South Fremantle’s defence, giving the Falcons second bite at opportunities the hosts’ defence should have easily cleared.
Andrew Strijk (18 disposals, one goal) began to work into the contest in the forward line, kicking his first goal from a set shot after Kody Manning (19 touches, one goal) took advantage of an error from the Bulldogs’ J Martinez.
An overzealous defensive attempt from the Falcons’ Ben King had him clothesline Saunders, but was indicative of the step-up in pressure the Falcons had found.
A goal from a 50m penalty to Jay van Berlo had West Perth back within 11 points near the end of the quarter.
The Falcons reduced the margin to a goal early in the second quarter as Shane Nelson (32 possessions) delivered a hand pass to West Perth’s best player Trent Manzone (32 disposals, six inside 50s), who sent the ball long inside 50 to Michael Lourey (three goals) for a set shot.
The ascendancy began to creep back the Bulldogs way and they would have had a steadying goal to Tyson Pickett had it not been for a spectacular smother from Aaron Black as Pickett was running into an open goal.
Later in the quarter, Manning, as he tends to do on occasion, produced a miraculous major from the left behind post, the ball slicing parallel to the goal face before drifting through for six points.
But that was the third-seeded side’s last highlight of the game as South Fremantle took control with a three-goal lead at half time and never looked like losing from that point on.
Bulldogs midfielder Shane Hockey was instrumental in the first half with 16 disposals before an apparent corked thigh restricted him to 22 touches for the game.
The South Fremantle performance indicated the side is a significant chance of defeating Subiaco next week to earn a spot in the grand final.
West Perth will return to Arena Joondalup to face the winner of tomorrow’s match between East Perth and Peel.