WESTERN BULLDOGS 4.3 13.6 14.8 16.11 (107) MELBOURNE 4.5 6.5 9.7 13.9 (87) GOALS Western Bulldogs: Dickson 3, Cooney 2, Giansiracusa 2, Hunter 2, Cross, Grant, Jones, Wallis, Campbell, Liberatore, Minson. Melbourne: Watts 4, Kent 2, Garland, Howe, Sellar, Viney, Dunn, M. Jones, N. Jones. BEST Western Bulldogs: Boyd, Minson, Liberatore, Cooney, Murphy, Hunter. Melbourne: Grimes, N. Jones, Watts, McKenzie, Viney, Trengove. UMPIRES Armstrong, Hosking, Fisher. CROWD 22,176 at Etihad Stadium.

The Western Bulldogs brought their encouraging season to a close with a 20-point win against Melbourne on Sunday in a contest that will give both sides cause for optimism.

The win was the Bulldogs’ fifth from their last nine matches of the season, with a blistering nine-goal second quarter setting up the 16.11 (107) to 13.9 (87) win at Etihad Stadium.

The match opened in the free-flowing manner typical of a final-round contest with nothing on the line, but the tale of the Demons’ season might have read slightly differently had they displayed some of the same carefree dash and daring earlier in the year.

The painfully hesitant ball movement with numbers behind and little movement ahead, which has been a trademark of Melbourne’s play, was replaced by a one-on-one approach, with the Dees clearly intent on moving the ball quickly.

Jack Watts, so often allowed to wander the back half racking up cheap kicks as the spare man, was sent forward and kicked a nice goal after a strong lead and mark.

Tory Dickson was lively for the Dogs with two first-term goals, but Melbourne held a two-point lead at quarter-time.

While there was a lot to like about the Demons’ fresh approach early on, it proved cruelly short-lived for the few fans who bothered to make the trip across town to the dreaded Docklands venue where the Dees have now lost 16 games in succession.

The young Bulldogs lifted a gear, with their intensity around the packs a key, and Melbourne’s newfound confidence quickly evaporated.

Jeremy Howe booted the first goal of the second quarter, but the rampant Bulldogs piled on nine of the next 10 goals as the listless Demons barely raised a yelp in reply.

Matthew Boyd, Tom Liberatore and Adam Cooney were the keys to the Bulldogs’ resurgence at the stoppages, while Lachie Hunter and evergreen veteran Daniel Giansiracusa each slotted two majors.

The Demons waited until after the half-time siren sounded, when they were down by 43 points, to show some ticker, with Jordie McKenzie and Will Minson involved in a scuffle that escalated into an ugly all-in melee that spilled against the boundary fence, dangerously close to fans on the city side of the ground.

Melbourne maintained that rage after the restart and locked the ball inside forward 50 for extended periods, but failed to capitalise on the territorial advantage. The first score of the third term didn’t come until Dickson added his third goal after nearly 10 frustrating minutes, but the reinvigorated Demons managed to drag the margin back to 37 points at the last break.

The Bulldogs had already made their sub when Giansiracusa was forced out of the match with an ankle injury early in the final term, leaving the Dogs one man down to cope with a late Melbourne rally.

Howe launched himself onto big Tom Campbell’s shoulders to add yet another scene to his highlights reel, but it was the manner in which the Demons fought the game out that will have impressed their fans more.

The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Hangzhou Night Net.