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Five talking points: Carlton v Western Bulldogs

Ben Guthrie (AFL Media)  July 16, 2017 10:25 PM

Post Match: Beveridge Press Conference (Rd17) Luke Beveridge spoke to the media following the Bulldogs' win over the Blues at the MCG.
AFL 2017 Round 17 - Carlton v Western Bulldogs

MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - JULY 16: Jason Johannisen of the Bulldogs handballs whilst being tackled by Liam Jones of the Blues during the round 17 AFL match between the Carlton Blues and the Western Bulldogs at Melbourne Cricket Ground on July 16, 2017 in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Quinn Rooney/Getty Images/AFL Media)

1. The Bulldogs give a yelp, keep season alive
The reigning premiers entered Sunday's clash against Carlton with just two wins from their past eight games. But with their season on the line, Luke Beveridge's side scrapped and clawed their way to a much-needed victory. After conceding the first three goals of the contest, the Bulldogs then kicked eight of the next nine goals of the match to arrest the momentum and control the Blues' scoring flow. The Blues cut the margin to just 14 points late in the third term, but the Dogs extended their margin to 26 points at the final change thanks to two opportunist goals to Mitch Wallis and Toby McLean. The Blues mounted a late challenge but the Bulldogs held firm to keep their finals chances alive.

2. Who replaces Cripps?
Seeing how the Blues would replace the influence of prime mover Patrick Cripps against the Bulldogs was one of the fascinating sub plots in Sunday's match. Cripps had been averaging 8.5 clearances per game over the past month and his partnership with Matthew Kreuzer had been central to the Blues' improvement. The big ruckman was again outstanding for the Blues, but with Cripps on the sidelines with a broken leg Carlton's midfield depth was severely tested. Bryce Gibbs stepped into the breach and won eight clearances to go with 32 disposals, while Nick Graham – back into the team after a week in the VFL – had six clearances. The Blues dominated the hit-outs (54-19) but lost the clearances (33-32), with Cripps' absence proving to be telling.

3. Johannisen spark lifts Dogs
There has been a lot of focus on Jason Johannisen in recent weeks, with opposition teams targeting the Bulldogs' playmaker. Opposition teams have been particularly physical with him, roughing him up at every opportunity. The Blues took a different approach and as the game opened up a little in the second half, Johannisen seemed to discover the flash and burst away speed that saw him ink a recent five-year deal with the club. It was an encouraging return to form and after a challenging few weeks, the attacking defender will be an important player in the Dogs' pursuit of September action.

4. Young Bulldog produces fine debut
Bulldogs debutant Lewis Young is (aptly) officially the youngest player on an AFL list this season, but belied his inexperience in an impressive debut in defence. Luke Beveridge preferred Young over premiership defender Fletcher Roberts after the youngster's encouraging form in the VFL. The 197cm defender (pick No.49 in last year's NAB AFL Draft), set to turn 19 on the 20th of December, looked right at home on the MCG in an assured performance, after a few mistakes early, in the first game of his AFL career. Young, who became the 999th player to pull on a Bulldogs jumper, positioned himself well in defence and wasn't afraid to back himself in the air, taking six intercept marks and nine in total. Young's pack mark over Kreuzer in the third quarter was a nice highlight and the Bulldogs would have been rapt with his impact in Easton Wood's absence.

5. Stringer does a 'string
The Bulldogs were down to three men on the bench early in the second quarter when Jake Stringer limped from the field after grabbing at his left hamstring. Stringer was running to a contest at the top of the goal square when he pulled up short. The dynamic forward knew what he had done straight away and limped form the field and straight down to the rooms. Stringer emerged on the bench later in the quarter with ice applied to his left hamstring and took no further part in the match.