WODONGA produced one of its most dominant performances of the season to crunch Myrtleford by 64 points at John Flower Oval on Saturday.
In a match that was effectively a grand final for teams out of finals contention, the Bulldogs systematically ripped apart the Saints.
The Bulldogs’ dominance was underlined in two key statistical areas.
They smashed the Saints in the inside 50-metre count 62-35 and had a decisive edge 16-5 for marks inside 50 metres.
Wodonga had the upperhand in the mid-field battles and looked more threatening when pushing forward.
The Saints’ cause wasn’t helped by the absence of Kristen Height, who has been a star in both areas his team fell down against the Bulldogs.
Height had a school football coaching commitment at the MCG and the Saints toyed with the idea of starting the match one player short to allow him to arrive in time for the second half.
The plan was aborted, but as good as Height has been, he wouldn’t have been the difference.
The Bulldogs had winners all over the ground.
Down back McKye Turner, Tom Wortmann and Ben Heinrich were superb in shutting down the Saints on the few times they ventured forward with any purpose.
In the middle, the Bulldogs won more of the ball and succeeded in quelling the Saints’ major playmaker Brad Murray with a tight tag from Tim Kindellan which threatened to spill over into something more serious on more than one occasion.
Lee Dale was the Saints’ best player, but the Bulldogs were well served by Dylan Beattie and Kayne Turner.
The Bulldogs ruck duo of Sam Maher and Matt Seiter worked well alternating from the goal square.
Inside 50 metres, Wodonga was buzzing with options including coach Ben Hollands, who booted three goals, Maher, Neil Reeve and Turner, who booted two apiece.
The Saints only real threat up forward was VFL-listed player Christian Burgess, who kicked two.
The Bulldogs took control in the second quarter when they kicked five goals to one for a match-winning 39-point lead.
The Saints had a brief rally in the third when Nathan Cossignani and Josh Chapman, rarely sighted up to this point, kicked goals in succession.
But a costly miss close to goal from Chapman soon after and a 50-metre penalty which resulted in a goal to Reeve and the Saints were cooked.
Wodonga climbed two places on the ladder to sixth spot, but has to play top-three teams Yarrawonga and Lavington in the last two rounds.
The Bulldogs have one win less than last season and will be banking on the Saints not to win one of their two remaining games against Albury and Wangaratta Rovers to stay sixth.
Wodonga coach Ben Hollands said the Bulldogs had established a base to push into finals next season.
“We had everyone contributing today and when we play like that we compete with nearly everybody,” he said.
“But we just don’t have the top end talent of other sides.”
Myrtleford co-coach Brad Murray said the loss was one of the Saints’ worst performances of the season.
“Everything we planned to do, we didn’t do,” he said.
“We had too many passengers and too much was left to too few.
“We take a lot of disappointment away from this game.”