An entertaining afternoon of football saw Bunbury move closer to this year's grand final with a gutsy nine-point win over Eaton.
In week one of the finals series, fans on both sides packed Payne Park to the brim and anticipated a tight clash between two of the league’s best teams.
They had moved up and down the ladder throughout the season, before the Bulldogs ended up second and Eaton finished in third.
Eaton, looking to overcome their ‘underdog’ status going into the game, took charge after the opening bouncedown and tested Bunbury’s selection of backs.
The Bulldogs then turned the tables on the visitors and set up Brandon Casserly for the first shot of the game.
A sublime snap kick in the middle of Bunbury’s forward 50 led to Brett Peake and the game’s first goal.
Bunbury took control during the term and showcased their talented array of players.
Goals to Travis Gray (his first of three for the match) and Bradley Blake gave them a clear lead shortly before quarter time.
After Matthew Scott slotted Eaton’s first for the clash, Peake showed them who’s boss and booted his second snap kick through the posts.
A goal to Eaton’s Karl Collard shrunk the gap, before Bunbury carried a 4.3.27 to 2.2.14 lead into quarter time.
A reinvigorated Eaton line-up caught Bunbury napping early in the second term.
Three goals within five minutes – to Scott, Heath Ryder, and Jayme Osiejak – put the Boomers in front for the first time, silencing Bunbury’s contingent of fans.
Greatly benefiting from Joshua Branchi in the ruck, Eaton’s midfielders made a point of gaining possession and charging towards their forward 50.
Their run was short lived, as Gray then put the home side back in front.
Bulldogs Codey Hay and Kane Bumann valiantly attempted to prevent Eaton from re-gaining the lead.
Bumann landed perfect tackles on Osiejak and Kelvin Lawrence, with both Eaton players called for holding the ball.
At the other end, Brendan Page was a stable force in the Boomers’ backline.
Following an embarrassing miss close to the goal-line from Collard, Ryder’s second goal gifted Eaton with a 6.3.39 to 5.5.35 lead at the main break.
Peake kicked off the third quarter in impressive fashion – booting a half-volley off a lucky bounce in the goal square.
The Bulldogs’ cheer squad then roared as Jordan Falco and Peake extended the margin during the quarter.
Martin came close but could not convert his attempts.
Braiden McMullen, however, found space in the pocket before booting his only goal for the clash.
Eaton only managed one goal, to Collard, and a handful of close attempts for the term.
The Boomers’ frustrations grew after a dropped ball resulted in a 50-metre penalty and a perfect attempt from Bulldog Mark Longbottom from a long way out.
Leading 10.8.68 to 7.6.48 at the final change, the Bulldogs had victory and a semi-final showdown with Donnybrook in their sights.
Eaton, not a team to underestimate, answered the call and launched a comeback minutes into the fourth quarter.
Ryder’s third goal pushed Eaton to within four points of the Bulldogs.
Gray’s third major sunk Eaton’s chances at victory and gifted Bunbury with a 11.9.75 to 9.12.66 win.
Eaton will take on Augusta-Margaret River next weekend, who claimed an upset victory over South Bunbury and knocked the Tigers out of the competition.
Facing a 23-point deficit at quarter time, the Hawks remained in the contest and kicked 10 goals to seven in the second half.
Hawks Mitchell Lynn, Mitchell Payne, and Jack Hick slotted three goals each, while Guy Piggott and Leigh Kohlmann starred for South Bunbury throughout.