AS South Bendigo and Golden Square headed off the QEO in opposite directions to their rooms on Saturday, so too are their seasons.
The Bulldogs’ 38-point victory – 14.11 (95) to 8.9 (57) – guaranteed they have secured the double chance for what will be their 13th-consecutive finals appearance.
However, South Bendigo’s loss cost the Bloods their position in the top five and with two rounds remaining, they have surrendered control of their BFNL finals destiny for what now looks an unlikely September campaign.
When the game was there to be won on Saturday it was the Bulldogs who were a class above the Bloods, with Golden Square forward Dylan Johnstone making his mark on the contest early.
By the 12-minute mark of the first term Johnstone – who had an increased load to carry in the absence of Travis Baird (hamstring) – had kicked three goals, helping to get the Bulldogs off to a flyer.
In contrast, it took the Bloods until the 15-minute mark of the third term before they had kicked three goals.
After his fast start Johnstone didn’t add to his tally of three goals in a game where he spent time opposed by his brother, South Bendigo’s Daniel Johnstone.
With the aid of the breeze to the city end in the first term and the midfield on top generating plenty of forward supply, the Bulldogs bolted to a 26-point advantage at quarter-time, 6.5 to 2.3.
And with that, it was going to be another game of catch-up for the Bloods, who trailed at quarter-time by more than 20 points for the third match in a row.
However, they blew their hopes of getting back into the match with a poor second quarter in which they could muster just 0.2, while the Bulldogs added a further three goals, including a beauty out of mid-air by the lively Braydon Welsh.
It wasn’t through a lack of forward 50 entries that the Bloods struggled to score – their delivery into attack was poor and the Golden Square defence led by Jon Coe, Will Lee, co-captain Brayden Dorrington and 200-gamer Clayton Anderson mopped up with ease.
The Bulldogs’ advantage grew to a game-high 63 points at three quarter-time, before the Bloods had their most productive term.
After kicking just three goals for the first three quarters, the Bloods added five in the final term, including three to Brad Wright, who finished with a game-high four – two of which were set-shots deep in the pocket.
The Bulldogs suffered a major scare at the 12-minute mark of the second term when Adam Baird (one goal) landed awkwardly after taking a mark and limped off with the pain of a knee concern clearly evident.
However, Baird returned to the field 10 minutes later.
The Bulldogs’ tally of 14 goals featured contributions from their two best players in co-captain Jack Geary (three) and Tom Toma (two), while Jake Thrum also got forward to kick three goals.
In what was South Bendigo’s third loss in a row, co-captain Aaron Connaughton and Mitch Rogerson were named best.