THE Western Bulldogs have stormed into the AFL finals, with Marcus Bontempelli starring in an emphatic 34-point win against Adelaide in Ballarat.
The seemingly-endless finals permutations boiled down to the Dogs needing a win at Mars Stadium on Sunday to qualify.
And they were rarely troubled after a blistering opening in front of 9560 fans, cruising to an 18.13 (121) to 13.9 (87) final scoreline that flattered the Crows.
Adelaide, Port Adelaide and Hawthorn were also in the mix for the final spot in the top eight heading into round 23, but Luke Beveridge’s men showed they thoroughly deserve to return to September action for the first time since their 2016 premiership.
The Dogs, struggling in 14th with a 4-7 record at the halfway point of the season, romped into seventh spot with a stirring 8-3 run that set up an away elimination final against GWS.
The Hawks’ upset win over West Coast meant the Crows needed to win by around 16 goals to sneak into the eight, but it was the Dogs who looked set for that sort of margin in a prolific first quarter.
Bontempelli (31 possessions and a goal) helped set the tone with a hand in both of the Dogs’ opening goals, kicked by Bailey Dale who finished with five majors.
Jack Macrae (36) and Josh Dunkley (33) were also prominent in the impressive display.
Don Pyke’s Crows were 40 points down before they’d even looked like scoring.
The criticism of Adelaide in a tumultuous season has been that they’ve oo often looked old and slow and that damning assessment was hard to argue against as the Dogs ran rings around them.
The Bulldogs led by 29 points at the first break and 28 at halftime after Adelaide showed some signs of life.
The margin blew out to 55 points before a late surge, Taylor Walker booting the third of his five goals to see his side trail by 41 points at three-quarter time.
The lead grew to a game-high 59 points before Brodie Smith kicked a goal-of-the- year contender from the boundary as the Crows kicked three goals in a row to add some sort of respectability to the scoreline.
Matt Crouch had a career-high day with 47 possessions and Rory Sloane (34) also worked hard but the Crows simply had too many passengers as they slumped a 10-12 record for the season.
© AAP 2019
WESTERN BULLDOGS 6.5 9.8 14.11 18.13 (121)
ADELAIDE 2.0 5.4 8.6 13.9 (87)
Goals: Western Bulldogs: B Dale 5 J Schache 2 P Lipinski 2 S Lloyd 2 T McLean 2 A Naughton J Macrae M Bontempelli R West T English. Adelaide: T Walker 5 C Jones 2 R Knight 2 T Lynch 2 B Smith M Crouch.
Umpires: Mathew Nicholls, Leigh Fisher, Nathan Williamson.
Official Crowd: 9,560 at Eureka Stadium.