Freo home in Anzac Day thriller
Fremantle 2.4 6.7 7.9 12.13 (85)
Western Bulldogs 2.3 6.7 7.8 11.12 (78)
Fremantle: Bradley 4, van Berlo 4, Mundy 2, McPhee, Lower
Western Bulldogs: Sherman 4, Griffen 2, Grant 2, Gilbee, Hill, Higgins
Fremantle: Mundy, Bradley, McPharlin, van Berlo, Sandilands, Duffield, Ibbotson
Western Bulldogs: Boyd, Sherman, Higgins, Picken, Griffen, Murphy, Ward
Fremantle: Greg Broughton (back) replaced in selected side by Jesse Crichton
Western Bulldogs: Nil
Fremantle: Jesse Crichton replaced by Jayden Pitt at three quarter-time
Western Bulldogs: Tom Williams (back spasms) replaced by Mitch Wallis at three quarter-time
Reports: Jordan Roughead (WB) for charging Luke McPharlin (Fre) in the third quarter
Umpires: McBurney, Nicholls, Mollison
Official crowd: 37,551 at Patersons Stadium
Fremantle has hung on to notch a thrilling seven-point win over the Western Bulldogs at Patersons Stadium on Anzac Day, with recruit Nick Lower kicking the game-winning goal in the final minute.
Lower’s last-gasp major ensured the home side ended a six-game losing streak to the Bulldogs, with Fremantle prevailing 12.13 (85) to 11.12 (78) for its third consecutive victory to move to 4-1 on the season.
The Bulldogs, who drop to 2-2, were 20 points behind early in the final quarter but kicked four straight goals to snatch a late lead.
When Freo forward Kepler Bradley baulked around Dale Morris on the goal-line to kick his fourth goal, the home side was within one point at the 26-minute mark, and scores were level three minutes later after a rushed behind.
A behind from Jayden Pitt followed before Lower sealed the win with just seconds remaining.
The Bulldogs manufactured an unlikely advantage in the midfield, winning the clearances 49-35 despite Aaron Sandilands’ 53 hit-outs.
Matthew Boyd had an enormous 45 possessions (24 contested) and 12 clearances, while Shaun Higgins had an outstanding final quarter to almost will his side home.
Spearhead Barry Hall, however, was kept goalless by Luke McPharlin, while Freo’s Bradley and Jay van Berlo both kicked four goals.
The Bulldogs’ 16-day break appeared to leave them sluggish in the early exchanges, but Fremantle didn’t capitalise on the scoreboard, taking a one-point lead into the first break.
They were jumped by the visitors at the start of the second, with Boyd bursting out of the square and hitting Josh Hill on the lead within a minute.
Boyd, who had 14 possessions in the first quarter, was the dominant midfielder up to half-time as the Bulldogs routinely sharked Sandilands’ hit-outs to gain a clear edge at stoppages.
When Justin Sherman and Ryan Griffen converted difficult set shots late in the quarter, the Dogs were 14 points clear and appeared to have more run than the hosts.
However, Fremantle rallied late through van Berlo and Bradley and drew level at the main break.
Both sides were wasteful and bereft of skill in a messy third term, with the Bulldogs’ only goal for the quarter coming after a dropped Michael Johnson mark in defence.
Fremantle entered three-quarter time one point ahead and both sides activated their substitute players, with Mitch Wallis making his debut for the Bulldogs and heading straight for the centre square.
It was a baptism of fire for Wallis, as Fremantle’s on-ballers clicked into action and won a series of clearances that led to three consecutive goals and a game-high 20-point lead before the Dogs clawed back to set up the thrilling finale.
Fremantle coach Mark Harvey said he was pleased with how his side responded in the frantic final minutes.
“Our guys probably now really understand how to fight through difficult times and then win, particularly when the pressure’s on. We’re finding ways, different ways, to win, and it’s not easy,” he said.
“The thrill and the excitement of Nick Lower kicking that last goal was something that, to people not involved internally, it’s hard to describe it. It provides satisfaction for how hard we’ve worked so far, but we know the job’s not finished yet.”