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Bulldogs hold off Magpies in AFL opener

The Western Bulldogs have launched their AFL premiership defence with a hard-fought 14-point win over a determined Collingwood at the MCG.

Magpies skipper Scott Pendlebury booted two fourth-quarter goals to give his side hope of snatching victory but the Bulldogs clung on to seal a 15.10 (100) to 12.14 (86) victory on Friday night.

There was plenty to like for the Magpies faithful, with Nathan Buckley’s men smashing their opponents in contested possessions and clearances – two areas which the Bulldogs dominated last season.

But the Bulldogs made the better of their opportunities and stood up when it mattered in front of 66,254 fans.

Reigning Norm Smith medallist Jason Johanissen picked up where he left off last year with an outstanding performance rotating between half-back and half-forward.

The South African-born speedster racked up 30 disposals, booted two goals and caused the Magpies headaches wherever he went in a best-afield performance.

The Bulldogs dominated in the early going, holding the Magpies to one goal for the first quarter.

But the Magpies came roaring back in the second term to bring the margin back to four points at halftime.

Pendlebury, Adam Treloar, Taylor Adams and Steele Sidebottom all found plenty of the ball to give the Magpies the midfield advantage.

But all too often, the Bulldogs were able to benefit from turnovers and punish the Magpies in transition.

The Bulldogs booted five straight goals in the third quarter to bring the game back on their terms and held strong during the final quarter.

Skipper Bob Murphy was impressive in his AFL comeback after missing last year’s premiership triumph, spending most of his time up forward and doing plenty to influence the play.

And former Magpie Travis Cloke was solid in his Bulldogs debut, lining up to kick a goal and silence the boos from the pro-Magpies crowd.

Already missing Jordan De Goey (broken hand), Daniel Wells (calf), Levi Greenwood (hip) and Jamie Elliott (ankle), the Pies took another hit when James Aish (virus) was a late withdrawal.

Initially named an emergency, Fremantle recruit Chris Mayne took Aish’s place and was solid on debut.

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