Macrae stars as Dogs edge Suns in Ballarat

Michael Ramsey
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The Western Bulldogs have celebrated a 81-72 AFL win over the Gold Coast Suns at Mars Stadium

Gun midfielder Jack Macrae has guided an injury-hit Western Bulldogs to a tightly-contested nine-point AFL win over Gold Coast in Ballarat.

The Bulldogs trailed at three-quarter time on Saturday in a game full of momentum swings but outlasted the Suns in the final term to secure an 11.15 (81) to 10.12 (72) victory at Mars Stadium.

Macrae was outstanding with 40 disposals, 12 clearances and a goal while Lachie Hunter chipped in with 34 disposals and seven inside-50s.

The hard-fought victory takes the Bulldogs' season record to three wins and four losses.

Already missing captain Easton Wood (hamstring), the Bulldogs suffered another major injury blow with stand-in skipper Marcus Bontempelli (hip soreness) a late withdrawal.

With Hunter taking the captaincy reins, the Dogs got off to a lacklustre start and were wasteful by foot on a cold and blustery afternoon.

Gold Coast, lining up without co-captains Tom Lynch (knee) and Steven May (finger), showed plenty of spark to seize the early lead and momentum.

The Bulldogs took the ascendancy midway through the second term, piling on four goals in quick succession including two fine roving efforts by fourth-gamer Patrick Lipinski.

But the Suns refused to go away, snatching back the lead on the verge of halftime and maintaining their dominance around the ball during a close third quarter.

The Bulldogs led the inside-50 count 14-0 midway through the final term but the Suns capitalised on their first forward entry with Aaron Young running down an oblivious Macrae and converting the free kick to level the scores.

But late goals to Billy Gowers and Bailey Williams were enough to see the Bulldogs home and maintain the Suns' unwanted mantle as the AFL's worst-performed fourth-quarter team.

With Metricon Stadium still unavailable, Gold Coast will host Melbourne at the Gabba next week before travelling to Shanghai to face Port Adelaide.

Second-year midfielder Ben Ainsworth starred for Gold Coast with his class and creativity while Touk Miller (27 disposals, eight tackles) continued his impressive form.