Bulldogs lose to Thunder but back home to host Swans

Monday, September 4, 2017 - 1:41 PM by Chris Pike
SOUTH Fremantle showed signs of a stirring comeback in the last quarter but it wasn’t enough with Peel Thunder winning the WAFL qualifying final by 18 points at Fremantle Community Bank Oval.
 
South Fremantle came into the qualifying final on home turf at Fremantle Community Bank Oval and on a nine-game winning streak, but slow starts have been the problem for the Bulldogs at different times this season and it was again the case on Saturday.
 
It wasn’t so much that South Fremantle started slowly this time, but it was the sheer intensity that Peel came out with and their hardness at the contest and pressure they put on the Bulldogs that made life challenging for the home side.
 
Peel kicked the first two goals of the game and then had opened a 17-point advantage by half-time. That lead grew to 36 points by early in the last term and the game looked over.
 
But South Fremantle has shown the ability to pile on goals quickly right throughout the season and the Bulldogs got going for the first time in the game for a seven-minute stretch in the last quarter.
 
They kicked four goals in that stretch to bring most of the 3500 fans in attendance to full voice. But it wouldn’t last and Peel got a steadying goal to claim the 12.8 (80) to 9.8 (62) victory.
 
The win means that Peel advances to play Subiaco in Sunday's second semi-final at Leederville Oval with a grand final spot at stake on the back of winning all four finals last year on the way to the premiership.
 
South Fremantle now is into the knockout stages and will host Swan Districts on Sunday in the first semi-final at Fremantle Community Bank Oval.
 
Brock Higgins was the standout performer on the day for South Fremantle with the workhorse of a ruckman more than holding his own against Fremantle and Peel pair Jonathon Griffin and Sean Darcy. He finished the game with 18 possessions, 35 hit outs, five inside-50 entries and a goal. 
 
That goal was his first since last year's preliminary final and just his 10th in 71 games with South Fremantle.
 
Ashton Hams was a four-quarter contributor for the Bulldogs ending the game with 25 disposals, eight marks and a terrific long goal in the first quarter.
 
Tim Kelly (24 touches, 10 tackles) and Haiden Schloithe (24 disposals, six tackles) worked their way into the contest while captain Ryan Cook finished with 22 possessions and nine marks. Dylan Main also had 20 disposals for the Bulldogs.
 
South Fremantle's defence held up reasonably well led by the returning Jason Maskos who limited Leroy Jetta to four kicks and two goals while having 18 possessions and five marks himself.
 
Blayne Wilson ended up with 20 disposals and 11 marks from down back with Steven Edwards offering good run again with 19 touches and a goal. Marlion Pickett also had 18 possessions and seven tackles.
 
Matthew Parker was the pick of South Fremantle's forwards kicking three goals in his first final at league level and just his fifth game.
 
Peel's talls also had the potential to cause South Fremantle problems and that looked even more the case when Sean Darcy kicked the first goal of the qualifying final. The Thunder then ensured they made an impressive start with a goal to captain Gerald Ugle.
 
South Fremantle did respond with the next two through Matthew Parker and Ashton Hams, but Peel went into quarter-time with a nine-point lead and six scoring shots to two following a goal to Cameron Sutcliffe.
 
It took just 20 seconds of the second term for South Fremantle to get on the board courtesy of Brock Higgins who kicked his first goal of 2017. The Bulldogs then hit the front for the first time when Mason Shaw kicked truly also just two minutes later.
 
The momentum wouldn’t last for the Bulldogs, though, with Peel getting the immediate response through Matt Taberner. Leroy Jetta then kicked another for Peel and just before half-time Taberner added his second and the Thunder went into the break in front by 17 points.
 
That soon became 23 points in the third quarter when Ugle kicked his second and 29 after Jetta booted his second as well. 
 
Blaine Johnson eventually got a goal back for South Fremantle at the 21-minute mark but Peel remained in control with two more goals from Tom Sheridan and Ben Hancock before three quarter-time to be up 32 points.
 
Peel's lead grew to 36 points seven minutes into the final quarter when Taylin Duman kicked truly but South Fremantle was always going to fire at some point and that would happen over the next 10 minutes.
 
It started when Parker kicked his second of the game before Saunders added his first and then Parker kicked a beauty from 50m right in front of the vocal members.
 
All of a sudden with some scintillating ball movement Steven Edwards got to show off his lightning pace to run on to a ball and go into an open goal. That goal made the margin just 12 points with plenty of time and momentum on the side of the Bulldogs.
 
But a turnover in defence saw Ugle kick his third goal for the Thunder and they again led by 18 points and that was that.
 
SOUTH FREMANTLE 2.0 4.2 5.5 9.8 (62)
PEEL THUNDER 3.3 6.7 10.7 12.8 (80)
 
SOUTH FREMANTLE – Goals: Parker 3; Hams, Saunders, Johnson, Higgins, Edwards, Shaw.
Best: Higgins, Hams, Maskos, Kelly, Wilson, Schloithe, Edwards.
PEEL THUNDER – Goals: Ugle 3; Jetta, Taberner 2; Sheridan, Hancock, Darcy, Sutcliffe, Duman.
Best: Suban, Deluca, Collins, O'Brien, Nyhuis, Ugle, Sutcliffe.