Suns down Bulldogs to kickstart AFL finals push
Gold Coast have pulled off one of their finest wins of the AFL season, beating a fast-finishing Western Bulldogs by seven points to kick-start their push for a debut finals berth.
Jack Lukosius booted five goals, including four in the second quarter, while Matt Rowell delivered an imperious midfield performance to secure a 13.6 (84) to 11.11 (77) victory at TIO Stadium.
Gold Coast, aiming to make their first finals series in their 13th season, improved their record to 5-6 while the wasteful Bulldogs (7-4) spurned a chance to leap into the top four.
The victory was timely for coach Stuart Dew, who stood up for himself this week as recently departed Richmond mentor Damien Hardwick was linked to his job.
"We feel we've been close to ticking one of these games off against a top-quality side," Dew said.
"The best part is they came out really hard, kicked the first three and decision time for our lads and they just kept at it, adjusted the game a little bit, took the feedback that was giving them, fought their way back
"Then even again in the last quarter, able to steady and we've got some mad competitors that just wanted to win.
"I'm rapt for the lads to be honest, just to have that winning feeling, I feel like they deserved that one."
The Suns held their nerve late as the Bulldogs, with the help of two contentious umpiring decisions, surged.
A controversial 50-metre penalty against Ben Ainsworth, who was ruled to have stepped over the mark despite stopping, gifted Bailey Williams a goal.
Ben Long was then penalised for catching Cody Weightman high off the ball, when the forward appeared to draw the contact.
Weightman drew the Bulldogs within a goal.
But Suns youngster Bailey Humphrey pounced on a Lukosius attempted mark and dribbled through a brilliant goal to ice the game.
Aaron Naughton appeared to have kicked a dramatic late goal but the score review showed his snap had just clipped the goal post.
Rowell racked up 29 disposals, 16 clearances, eight score involvements and 702 metres gained and a goal, supported by Noah Anderson (26 touches) while Lukosius' second-quarter haul turned the game Gold Coast's way.
Charlie Ballard (11 intercept possessions) and Sam Collins intercepted at will for the Suns while the Bulldogs' in-form defensive recruit Liam Jones (13 intercepts, seven marks) was superb.
Jamarra Ugle-Hagan (three goals) consistently threatened to break the game open while Marcus Bontempelli (28) didn't stop working.
"Their (Gold Coast's) intensity and pressure and tackling game and some of the things they did around the source was very good and we probably didn't deal with that as well as we have been," coach Luke Beveridge said.
"So just another reminder to us we've got to continually be on guard for the opposition's best and you've got to make the most of your chances and we didn't tonight."
The Suns next face Adelaide, also in Darwin, while the Bulldogs take on Geelong.