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Lions' midfield find form in mauling of Bulldogs

The Brisbane Lions have injected life into their inconsistent AFL campaign by registering an emphatic 43-point win against the Western Bulldogs at Marvel Stadium

Returning to the venue of their disappointing defeat to Hawthorn before the bye, the Lions battered the Bulldogs in the middle to set the tone for the 17.12 (114) to 10.11 (71) victory on Friday night.

"It was a good response and was probably as good as we've played this year," Lions coach Chris Fagan said.

"It's a pretty complete performance.

"What I pointed out to the players in the break was you're doing a lot of things right, boys."

Brisbane sent Jarrod Berry to tag Bulldogs captain Marcus Bontempelli, who was coming off a heroic performance against Collingwood, in what proved to be a masterstroke.

Berry had 14 dispoals to Bontempelli's six at halftime as Brisbane led by 33 points, while the Lions' best midfielder Lachie Neale was dominating with 20 touches and a crucial goal just before the halftime siren.

Neale was back to his Brownlow Medal-winning best, with 38 possessions, 10 clearances and two goals.

Lachie Neale.
Dual Brownlow winner Lachie Neale was in peak form for the Lions, with 38 possessions and two goals. (Joel Carrett/AAP PHOTOS)

Brisbane came out on top in the clearance battle 50-32, dominating the in-form Bontempelli and Adam Treloar out of the centre.

But the brilliance of Bontempelli was not completely blunted after the superstar pushed forward to kick three goals in the absence of Bulldog forwards Sam Darcy (suspension) and Aaron Naughton (knee).

However, it wasn't just Neale and Berry inflicting damage for the Lions, with oft-maligned forward Eric Hipwood kicking an equal-career high six goals after missing the match against the Hawks due to suspension.

In one of the best games of Hipwood's career, it was the 26-year-old's best goal return since 2019 as he also created a strong threat in the air.

Lions players celebrate a goal.
The Lions dominated the Bulldogs, as both sides produced form reversals from their previous games. (Joel Carrett/AAP PHOTOS)

Fellow tall forward Joe Daniher was important early, with the duo making amends for a horror night in the corresponding game against the Bulldogs last year.

Young forward Logan Morris put himself in contention for a Rising Star nomination by snaring an exciting goal on the run and playing a crucial role in setting up many others.

Bulldogs midfielder Tom Liberatore, who returned after missing three games due to concussion, could find himself in trouble with the match review officer after punching Berry in the throat.

Tom Liberatore.
Tom Liberatore returned from concussion, only to land in possible trouble for a punch. (Joel Carrett/AAP PHOTOS)

After Bontempelli, the only other multiple goal-kickers for the Bulldogs were Jamarra Ugle-Hagan and James O'Donnell, with two apiece.

Versatile Bulldogs tall Rory Lobb was subbed out in the last quarter after having no major impact on the contest.

"It was a huge challenge with the the makeup of our brigade in there (the midfield) we just didn't negate their influence for most of the game," Bulldogs coach Luke Beveridge said.

"It's difficult to win with a landslide of clearance wins that they had and we were a victim of sometimes what we provide to the opposition."

The result lifted the Lions into 12th (5-1-6), just two points behind the 11th-placed Bulldogs.

After making last year's grand final, the Lions endured a difficult first-half of the season as they struggled with form and injury, including five ACL cases on their sick list.

Brisbane will look to square their ledger when they host St Kilda at the Gabba next Friday night, while the Bulldogs wll be desperate to bounce back when they host Fremantle at Marvel Stadium on Saturday.