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Bulldogs end Hawks' AFL domination

AAP logoAAP 16/09/2016

The Western Bulldogs have ended Hawthorn's quest for four straight AFL premierships with a 23 -point semi-final triumph.

The Bulldogs mauled the Hawks in the second half on Friday night at the MCG, kicking 10 goals to five and winning 16.11 (107) to 12.12 (84).

Hawthorn looked weary as they went out of the finals in "straight sets", or two consecutive losses, for the first time since 1977.

The crowd of 87,823 was the third biggest in Bulldogs' history.

While the Hawks have been stopped from becoming the first team since the 1920s Collingwood machine to win four flags in a row, the Bulldogs are trying to add to their only premiership in 1954.

They will go to Sydney to play the Giants in a twilight preliminary final on Saturday week at Spotless Stadium, with the winner through to the grand final.

Bulldogs onballer Marcus Bontempelli was best afield, while Jake Stringer and Liam Picken kicked three goals apiece.

A minute into the last quarter, Hawks captain Luke Hodge was shaping to handball when Bontempelli swooped and stole possession.

That set up Tory Dickson for the goal that put the Bulldogs 32 points up and confirmed there would be no Hawks comeback.

It was a moment of potent symbolism - one of the Bulldogs' young stars stealing the ball from the leader of Hawthorn's run of three premierships in a row, and four since 2008.

Last week's win over West Coast was hailed as one of the Bulldogs' best finals performances. This was even better.

The Bulldogs wrested control from the Hawks with six goals to one in the third term, hitting the front for the first time since early in the match.

But for much of the first half, it looked like the Bulldogs would pay for missed opportunities.

They started the game perfectly, matching the Hawks' intensity and keeping the ball in their half of the ground, only to open their scoring with a wasteful three behinds.

A superb smother from Hawks defender James Frawley stopped a certain Bulldogs goal and the ball rapidly went to the other end of the ground.

Jack Gunston kicked Hawthorn's second goal in a classic 12-point turnaround.

Hawthorn led by 11 points at quarter-time and extended that to 23 midway through the second as the Bulldogs kept butchering chances.

Then Luke Breust, who never fluffs set shots, did so in the second term for Hawthorn.

The Bulldogs went on a three-goal run and Dickson's shot after the halftime siren could have given them the lead.

He missed, a melee ensued and the Hawks led by a point at the main break.

Liam Shiels and Shaun Burgoyne were best for Hawthorn on a night when, for once, too many of their stars failed to have an influence.

Hawks coach Alastair Clarkson went to the Bulldogs rooms post-match to wish them all the best.

Luke Beveridge was an assistant under Clarkson before taking over at the Bulldogs two years ago - his first AFL senior coaching job.

"Clarko came in - we know he's a man of the highest integrity (and) he and I have shared some unbelievable times together," Beveridge said.

"I owe him a lot."

He added it was a different feeling to beat Hawthorn in a final.

"I don't get any extra satisfaction out of, but it is a great achievement, beating such a formidable side," Beveridge said.

He said his admiration for the Bulldogs players was enormous, adding they held their nerve in the second term when Hawthorn threatened to kick clear.

Beveridge noted that after an injury-riddled season, the team is now in good health.

The Giants had a 25-point win at home over the Bulldogs in round nine, but Beveridge said they would not be intimidated.

"You just feel that this group of players can do anything and ... we've seen them their through their actions and even heard them through their words talk about no ceiling," he said.

"You can't help but get caught up in that."

Clarkson was philosophical, saying there was a sense of "what if" after they failed to capitalise in the second term.

"No good this losing caper, is it?," he said.

"We're not used to it. It's a good habit to have, winning in September, and unfortunately we weren't good enough tonight.

"But I'm really proud of this group, they've delivered so much for this club over a long period of time."

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