The Courthouse Hotel Gunnedah AFL Bulldogs were comprehensively beaten by Tamworth Australian Football League premiership candidates Inverell Saints on Saturday afternoon.
The Wolseley Oval clash was a test of the Bulldogs’ flag credentials after two emphatic victories over Muswellbrook Cats and Tamworth Swans.
This time round it was the Bulldogs who were on the wrong side of the scoreline, defeated by the Saints by 67 points.
At the mercy of the Saints, the Bulldogs were out classed in all but a single quarter of the match.
Despite the loss, Gunnedah still remains in third position in line with the Tamworth Kangaroos on eight competition points.
Weekend results determine that both sides are still locked in third place in a running battle on for and against quotient.
The no mercy approach of the Saints early on the match warned that Gunnedah was in for a much harder contest.
Saints proceeded to fire early in contrast to a lethargic Gunnedah side.
By opening a 26-point buffer in the first 15 minutes of the match, the Bulldogs were literally running second to the majority of contests throughout the quarter.
By quarter-time each side went into the break at either end of the spectrum.
Inverell was clinical in opening a 38-point deficit at 44-6 leaving the Bulldogs’ to cower with their tail between their legs.
Gunnedah regained conscious after the break and resurrected the situation to climb back into the fixture during the second quarter.
Led by the leadership and advice of player-coach Scott Hardy and admirably assisted by captain Andrew George, the Bulldogs asserted some form of recovery.
George kicked his way to two of his four majors for the day and Hardy’s commitment with the ball on deck through heavy traffic was consistently courageous in the circumstances.
The backline was dealt a massive blow with veteran fullback John Woolostan assisted from the field with a back injury.
His injury meant Andrew Pratt began to follow George and Hardy’s lead of commitment to task as the Bulldogs’ backline endlessly repelled any Saints march toward goal.
The Bulldogs clawed their way back into the match and only for a lucky bounce after the siren did Inverell keep their noses in front at half-time at 49 to 36.
Injuries and lack of fitness though became the Bulldogs achilles heel by the time the third quarter started.
The Saints came marching with a vengeance and four goals inside 10 minutes was the start of an avalanche.
Gunnedah watched haplessly as the sweeping movement and exceptional crumbing of the Saints’ midfield in contrast to Gunnedah’s George and Hardy who were lone rangers.
Michael Kennedy also proved his versatility on ground filtering between the backline, midfield and centre-half to full-forward line.
George snared his fourth to salvage some pride but it was all too little, too late for the Bulldogs.
The three to four man effort from the Bulldogs was inevitably not enough and the Saints cruised to a 67-point victory on the back of their fitness, height in the aerial contests and footy on ground.
Best on ground for the Bulldogs was George who received the player’s player award, who gave his captain’s award to centre half-back, Pratt.
If not for Pratt’s one-on-one contested and spoiled possessions and playing on behalf of his backline, the scoreline might have been diabolical for the home side.
Gunnedah faces the potent force of New England Nomads in this week’s match in what again will be a test of where coach Scott Hardy’s side is situated.
Flying high. Centre half-forward Matt McConnell takes a great mark for the Bulldogs against the Saints.
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