Bulldogs deliver scintillating fightback to secure top spot

Tuesday, September 8, 2020 - 9:24 PM by Chris Pike

SOUTH Fremantle produced the most remarkable of comebacks with eight goals in the last quarter to overcome a 32-point deficit to beat East Perth by 22 points at Fremantle Community Bank Oval on Saturday.

The Bulldogs came into the game knowing that a win would not only keep them undefeated for the 2020 Optus WAFL Premiership Season, but also lock away the minor premiership and home ground advantage for the second semi-final.

But East Perth were also playing to keep their own finals hopes alive and were on a two-game winning streak on arrival at the port, and then by midway through the third quarter were in control of the game leading by 32 points.

However, South Fremantle produced some simply scintilating football from that moment and kicked the last nine goals of the game, including eight in the fourth quarter, to end up winning 13.7 (85) to 9.9 (63).

It all started with ruckman Brock Higgins in the middle and some massive clearances, and then key forwards Mason Shaw and Jimmy Miller were taking huge marks, a host of players were kicking goals from anywhere and the momentum of the Bulldogs was just impossible to stop.

The result was crucial for both teams and it improves the Bulldogs to a 7-0 record to guarantee the minor premiership and for them to host the second semi-final at Fremantle Community Bank Oval. That will have a Grand Final spot at stake which will be played at the same venue.

It's a savage blow for the Royals who looked so good for most of the day. They are now 3-4 with a game against Peel Thunder to go but they will need to win that by a huge margin while hoping that Subiaco and Perth lose by enough for them to jump each of them by percentage.

Mason Shaw was again a strong focal point in attack for South Fremantle and he kicked five goals from eight kicks and six marks to close in on winning his first Bernie Naylor Medal.

Kade Stewart and captain Dylan Main also kicked two goals apiece for the Bulldogs.

Chad Pearson was part of a tremendous defensive performance from the Bulldogs with 22 possessions and seven marks while Chris Luff locked down Jonathan Freeman, Blayne Wilson did the job on Eddie Simpson, and John Levien kept Royals captain Patrick McGinnity quiet.

Zac Strom gathered another 20 disposals for South Fremantle while Haiden Schloithe had 17 touches, Jake Florenca 17, Nick Suban 15 and ruckman Brock Higgins 13 to go with 31 hit outs and five inside-50 entries.

East Perth came in off the high of two strong wins could have taken a step closer to a finals appearance in 2020 by handing South Fremantle its first loss of 2020, and for most of the afternoon on Saturday the Royals looked just like doing that.

East Perth beat Subiaco and Swan Districts the previous two weeks to reignite their hopes of playing finals in the shortened Optus WAFL Premiership Season, but the Royals had to keep that going on a trip to Fremantle Community Bank Oval on Saturday.

Taking on the undefeated South Fremantle who still had to lock away the minor premiership was always going to be a daunting ask for East Perth, but it was one they were right up for – at least for the first three quarters.

After South Fremantle kicked the first goal of the game, East Perth took over and kicked the next five and then when Jayden Magro booted his third midway through the third quarter, the Royals were in control by 32 points and heading for the critical win.

However, the Bulldogs responded in remarkable fashion. They got one goal back before three quarter-time and then played the most inspired football any team has shown this WAFL season.

South Fremantle kicked eight goals to one behind in the final term and were just unstoppable whether it was the clearance from ruckman Brock Higgins out of the middle, the huge marks taken up forward by Mason Shaw and Jimmy Miller, and the impressive kicking on goal.

In the end, South Fremantle went from 32 points midway through the third term to end up beating East Perth 13.7 (85) to 9.9 (63).

It was a thrilling contest in the reserves as well at Fremantle Community Bank Oval on Saturday with East Perth kicking three goals to nil from South Fremantle in the last quarter to win 7.9 (51) to 6.9 (45).

Zane Sumich kicked two goals for Bulldogs while Kyle Hamersley, Travis Abbott, Jacob Sax, Guy Barnes and Lachlan Sinnott all added one apiece.

It was also a close affair in the colts match up to start the day at Fremantle Community Bank Oval but it was East Perth kicking five goals to two in the fourth quarter to end up beating South Fremantle 9.6 (60) to 8.5 (53).

Solomon James was outstanding in the ruck and going forward for South Fremantle ending up with 13 possessions, six marks, 22 hit outs and three goals.

Jaxon Bellchambers also had 28 possessions, Angus Fraser 22, Jesse Heywood 21, Oscar Armstrong 20 and Jayden Foote 17.

OPTUS WAFL PREMIERSHIP SEASON – ROUND 8

SOUTH FREMANTLE        1.2    3.5    5.5    13.7 (85)
EAST PERTH            4.3    5.5    9.8    9.9 (63)

SOUTH FREMANTLE: Goals – Shaw 5; Stewart, Main 2; Schloithe, Dragovich, Rioli, Datson.
Best – Pearson, Strom, Luff, Shaw, Wilson, Levien, Suban, Main.
EAST PERTH: Goals – Magro 3; McGinnity, Lynch, Kerr, Jones, Simpson, Young.
Best – Ramsay, Kerr, Magro, Willcocks, Blee, Robertson.