The Footscray Bulldogs scored a stirring victory over VFL leaders Port Melbourne by 36 points on Saturday.
On a muddy North Port Oval, the Bulldogs advanced to six wins and three losses, inflicting Port Melbourne’s second defeat for the season.
The first term saw the Bulldogs kick 7.0 to the Borough’s 4.1 thanks to dominance at the clearances.
The Footscray midfield worked to contain dangerous onballers James Magner, Shane Valenti and Chris Cain in the first term, allowing Nick Lower and Brett Goodes to control the stoppages.
Inside attacking-50, Lachie Hunter and Mitch Honeychurch menaced the Borough’s defence at ground level while Jack Redpath showed clean hands overhead.
After conceding the first goal of the match to Magner, Footscray kicked the next four.
By the end of the term, Honeychurch, Hunter and David Iaccarino had two goals apiece.
It was Daniel Connors who provided a target for Port Melbourne and kept the home side within touch. The athletic midfielder played deep in attack, booting two opening-quarter goals.
Footscray’s 17-point quarter-time lead quickly whittled away as Connors continued to plague the Dogs’ defence in term two. By the time he kicked his second of the quarter and fourth of the match, the Borough had levelled the scores at 8.1 (49) apiece.
But Footscray rallied as versatile defender Jordan Russell was moved onto Connors late in the term. The Bulldogs kicked three of the quarter’s last four goals to establish an 11-point half-time lead.
Port Melbourne opened the second half in imperious fashion, snaring three quick goals and wresting back the lead.
Connors again found himself at the centre of attention after soaring for a spectacular aerial grab inside-50. Unfortunately for the hosts, he missed the resultant set shot and the Bulldogs remained in the game with the Borough’s lead peaking at nine points.
A strong Redpath mark and goal from a chance inside-50 lifted Footscray. It was to be the first of four successive Bulldogs goals to end the quarter.
Holding a 14-point three-quarter time lead, the Bulldogs sensed the moment and applied ferocious pressure at the contests throughout an impressive fourth term.
Footscray was rewarded with four final-quarter goals to one.
Honeychurch was scintillating with three opportunist goals for the term while Jake Stringer notched up his third goal for the match on his way to nearly 30 possessions.
Russell kept the dangerous Connors goalless in the second half and Fletcher Roberts was again rock-solid in defence throughout the match.
Captain Nick Lower was another standout, as coach Chris Maple reflected.
“His leadership today on field was really good. He cracked in at the ball and tackled hard, and his smother in front of the grandstand to set up a goal was a great example to our young guys”, Maple said.
Maple also described his side’s approach while speaking after the match.
“Playing the top team at their home ground, they’re renowned for their contested ball and that was a good challenge for us”, he said.
“We went in with a plan to combat the way they play around stoppages… I thought our boys were very disciplined in the way they went about it.”
Footscray takes on Collingwood next week on Sunday afternoon.
Port Melbourne: 4.1 9.3 12.7 13.8 (86)
Footscray: 7.0 11.2 15.3 19.8 (122)
Port Melbourne: Connors 4, Johnston 2, Magner 2, Beasley, Cain, O’Sullivan, Scipione, Valenti
Footscray: Honeychurch 5, Redpath 3, Stringer 3, Hunter 2, Iaccarino 2, Campbell, Cordy, Lower, Prismall
Port Melbourne: Magner, Valenti, Pinwill, O’Sullivan, Connors
Footscray: Honeychurch, Lower, Stringer, Hunter, Goodes, Roberts, Russell