THE WESTERN Bulldogs are one step closer to their first finals appearance since their 2018 flag after defeating a dogged St Kilda by 15 points.
The 4.11 (35) to 3.2 (20) win meant the Dogs snapped a three-game losing streak in the bruising encounter, consigning the injury-hit Saints to their sixth-straight defeat in slippery conditions at Mars Stadium in Ballarat.
BULLDOGS v SAINTS Full match coverage and stats
An accidental Elisabeth Georgostathis goal from outside 50 took the margin to eight points halfway through the fourth quarter, giving her side some much-needed breathing room after they'd dominated play in the term, with the Dogs stretching the lead late to win by 15 points.
Despite makeshift ruck Lucy Burke being well and truly outmatched by Alice Edmonds, the Western Bulldogs were unable to take early advantage of their hitout dominance and the Saints initially controlled play through the middle.
The Saints kicked two quick goals through Caitlin Greiser and Georgia Patrikios and while the play then lived in the Dogs' forward half, they were unable to fully capitalise.
The run and carry from the Dogs in the second term threatened to open up the Saints far too often for coach Nick Dal Santo's liking, but the hosts struggled with conversion, booting six behinds to trail by one at half-time.
A late Nic Stevens goal after some Patrikios speed and magic kept the margin to a solitary behind at the final break, but the Bulldogs kicked away late.
Dea Berry – spending some time in the midfield – showed just how damaging the former top-10 pick can be, despite a few knocks to her shoulder, recording 14 disposals and two clearances, while Ellie Blackburn (24 and six tackles) led from the front, particularly in the final term.
A heavy collision in a marking contest early in the game between Edmonds and Alice Burke – with father Nathan in the opposition coaching box in his 400th AFL/W match as a player and coach – saw the smaller Burke lay motionless and heavily winded for some time, but she played out the game.
The Western Bulldogs are now sitting eighth, four points and 17 per cent ahead of Gold Coast in ninth. The Dogs are unlikely to make up much ground on seventh-place North Melbourne due to the 70 per cent gap between the two teams, but with games against West Coast and Carlton to come, they are well and truly in the box seat to grab what is arguably the final top eight spot on offer.
St Kilda's short on talls
The Saints took a considerably shorter line-up into the match with Erin McKinnon (on-going concussion symptoms), Simone Nalder (rested after a head knock last week) and key back Clara Fitzpatrick (jarred knee) unavailable. Rebecca Ott and Bianca Jakobsson stood up really well in defence, but Celine Moody's height occasionally proved to be a bridge too far. Lucy Burke battled admirably, but Edmonds well and truly controlled the ruck, recording 38 hitouts to Burke's 13.
The Bulldogs' quest for finals will continue against West Coast at Mineral Resources Park, while St Kilda will host Port Adelaide at RSEA Park.
WESTERN BULLDOGS 1.1 1.7 2.9 4.11 (35)
ST KILDA 2.1 2.2 3.2 3.2 (20)
Western Bulldogs: Bateman, Moody, Georgostathis, Coyne
St Kilda: Greiser, Patrikios, Stevens
Western Bulldogs: Blackburn, Edmonds, Fitzgerald, Berry, Brown
St Kilda: Jakobsson, Vesely, McDonald, Ott, A. Burke
Western Bulldogs: Nil
St Kilda: Nil