It came down to the wire, but a gutsy Gold Coast SUNS outfit couldn't quite get the job done, defeated by the Bulldogs by five points at a wet Metricon Stadium on Thursday night.
The match was an arm-wrestle all night, with the Bulldogs leading by two points at quarter, half and three-quarter time, before winning 7.9 (51) to 6.10 (46).
When Lachie Young gave the Bulldogs a 13-point lead early in the last quarter with his first career goal, the Bulldogs looked home, but Ben Ainsworth narrowed the gap and set up a grandstand finish.
Third-game whiz-kid Izak Rankine had a chance to level the scores late in the match but his around-the-corner set shot from the left forward pocket missed on the near side.
For Gold Coast it was a heartbreaking loss, unable to capitalise on a 47-37 advantage for inside 50s and a 36-31 edge in the clearances.
Jarrod Witts led from the front, outplaying boom young ruckman Tim English, while Touk Miller (28 touches) and Alex Sexton (three goals) were big contributors.
The SUNS now head into a 10-day break, taking on GWS Giants at Metricon Stadium on Sunday August 2.
Not Izak's night
It was so near yet so far for Izak Rankine. With the game on the line in the final quarter he looked the most likely to steal victory for the Suns. Rankine had not one, not two, not three, but four chances around goal to capitalise, but missed all four. None of them were easy shots – in fact he created one or two of them from thin air – but he'll rue the misses. The final kick from the left pocket was very makeable by his standards. Even still, Rankine is a must-see every time he goes near the ball.
Wet ball or dry for Daniel?
In a match punctuated by errors in the slippery conditions, Caleb Daniel looked like he was playing with a dry football. With suffocating pressure from both sides, there wasn't much time to make decisions or execute skills, but every time the Bulldogs' half-back got it, something good happened. He gathered 25 disposals, gained 484m and used it at 84 per cent efficiency.
Gold Coast's interesting ruck tactic
Jarrod Witts against Tim English was an enthralling duel – that Witts won - but when the ball went inside the Suns' forward 50 they mixed things up. Rather than going with regular back-up Sam Day, they cycled through the midfield to attend boundary throw-ins and ball-ups. David Swallow grabbed one clean from the ruck only to send his shot wide, while Hugh Greenwood did likewise to have his shot marked on the goal line. Jack Macrae and Bailey Smith were their opponents and although it didn't pay the ultimate dividend for Gold Coast, it was intriguing.
GOLD COAST 2.1 3.4 5.6 6.10 (46)
WESTERN BULLDOGS 2.3 3.6 5.8 7.9 (51)
Gold Coast: Sexton 3, Ainsworth, Ellis, Rankine
Western Bulldogs: Smith, Liberatore, Johannisen, Lipinski, Wallis, Richards, Young
Gold Coast: Miller, Witts, Collins, Greenwood, Sexton, Swallow
Western Bulldogs: Daniel, Smith, Crozier, Macrae, Williams, Bontempelli
Gold Coast: Nil
Western Bulldogs: Nil