Hawthorn star Jai Newcombe has put on a midfield masterclass as the Hawks pulled off a second sizeable upset in as many weeks, denting the Western Bulldogs’ AFL finals hopes with a nail-biting three-point win in Launceston.
Newcome had a career-high 40 disposals in his side’s 9.13 (67) to 9.10 (64) win, just a week after they shocked ladder leaders Collingwood last weekend.
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He also kicked a goal, had two goal assists and laid four tackles in a clear best-on-ground performance, but it was his ability to break tackles that shone most brightly, the 22-year-old proving almost impossible to clamp down in traffic.
And he knows it.
“Is there anyone at training that can nail you in a tackle?” former Hawthorn goalkicker Ben Dixon asked Newcombe after the match.
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The inside bull’s response was probably as cheeky as it was accurate.
“I haven’t found one yet, but we’ll keep looking,” he quipped with a laugh.
“What about this one… you won’t be able to break this one,” Dixon responded, as he feigned to grab Newcombe in a tackle.
Even Ben Dixon couldn’t wrap Jai Newcombe up in a tackle after the game. Credit: Fox Sports
With a smile on his face, Newcombe pushed Dixon off with ease before the two came together once again and embraced.
Starting the round 16th on the ladder, the Hawks held their nerve on Sunday afternoon to register their seventh victory of the season against the sixth-placed Bulldogs.
They were ahead by more than three goals early in the final term before the Bulldogs mounted a surge with two quick majors.
Bulldog Bailey Williams then cut the margin to just two points with less than two minutes remaining but his team were left agonisingly short.
Luke Beveridge’s men host West Coast next round before finishing the regular season with a trip to Geelong as they try to lock in a top eight spot.
Newcombe was outstanding for the Hawks in his 50th AFL game, but the Hawks lost Chad Wingard inside the first few minutes when the experienced forward collapsed with a suspected achilles problem trying to accelerate.
It was a poorly timed blow for the out-of-contract 30-year-old, who has been sidelined with several injuries this year including a nasty tongue laceration.
Chad Wingard had to be helped from the field. Credit: Steve Bell/Getty Images
He had to be helped from the field and was unable to put weight on his left foot.
Hawthorn shot themselves in the foot multiple times in the first half, with turnovers inside their own 50 leading to Bulldogs goals.
The Hawks conceded the opening three goals and trailed by 20 at the first beak but reduced the margin to nine at halftime on the back of long-range efforts from Newcombe and Karl Amon.
The Bulldogs suffered an injury hit of their own in the second quarter when Tom Liberatore was substituted out after being accidentally knocked in the head by a knee.
Liberatore had blood running from his head and was wobbly leaving the field.
Hawthorn hit the lead for the first time early in the third quarter when Luke Bruest converted from close range.
The Bulldogs managed just three behinds in the third term with the breeze at their back.
James Worpel opened the scoring in the fourth term for Hawthorn after the Bulldogs were called for a throw in the centre of the field.
– With AAP
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