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Five Talking Points: Round 21

Nat Edwards, AFL.com.au  August 12, 2017 12:12 AM

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Dawson Simpson and Rory Lobb embrace after Friday night's win over the Bulldogs.

1. Greene in hot water

GIANTS forward Toby Greene returned to the side after serving a two-week suspension and it's fair to say he wasn't a popular man with Bulldogs fans. Earlier this year he was rubbed out for striking Bulldog Caleb Daniel, and the red, white and blue faithful took every opportunity to boo the GIANTS goalsneak. Dogs fans didn't need any more ammunition but Greene provided some in the third term when he jumped up to take a mark and kicked Luke Dahlhaus in the face. The incident left the Bulldog midfielder with a bloodied face which required stapling. Greene was reported by the umpire for rough conduct. From the replay, Greene had eyes for the ball with his foot appearing to make accidental, not intentional contact, but all the same it was another black mark against his name in the minds of Bulldogs fans. Two minutes later, he took a great contested mark against Young, and kicked truly, putting another dagger in the Bulldogs' heart.

2. Orange tsunami hits Etihad Stadium

After Friday night, there is no doubt the GIANTS are building a wave of momentum heading into September. The win over the Bulldogs at Etihad Stadium was their first this year at the venue, and their 13th victory this season. A top-two finish looks likely now for the Giants, who have plenty of upside with the likes of forward Jeremy Cameron and ruckman Shane Mumford still to come back into the team. For the Dogs, Friday night was a disaster.  The premiers are a far cry from the high-pressure, fast moving team that won last year's flag, and will now need to win both of their final two games (Port Adelaide and Hawthorn) if they are to make finals. Their percentage also took a battering, slipping to 98.3, and if they are to stay in the top eight at the end of this round, they'll need several results to fall their way.

3. Dogs struggle to convert

The Bulldogs lead the competition when it comes to inside 50s, but their strike rate once in attack has let them down in 2017. Last week against the Brisbane Lions they had 65 inside 50s which resulted at 33 shots at goal. Despite this they only kicked 14 for a strike rate of 42 per cent. This trend continued against the GIANTS on Friday night. The Dogs dominated the second quarter with 22 inside 50s but only managed a return of 3.6, while the GIANTS kicked three straight goals from a lowly four forays in attack.  The Dogs nightmare in front of goal continued into the third term with Luke Beveridge's men kicking five behinds for the entire quarter, while the GIANTS applied scoreboard pressure down the other end, extending their lead out to 38-points at the last break. In the end, the Dogs scored just one goal in the second half, at the 24 minute mark of the final term, despite winning the inside 50 count 65-34.

4. Patton fires early

After missing last week's big win over Melbourne with a minor hamstring issue, GIANTS spearhead Jonathon Patton flew out of the blocks. The big marking forward was unstoppable in the first term, kicking three goals from set shots, each time out-marking young Bulldogs defenders Zaine Cordy and Lewis Young. He was held goalless in the next two quarters but palmed down several balls in the goal square leading to GIANTS' goals. With teammate Cameron to return in coming weeks, the GIANTS' attack will be a scary proposition come finals. 

5. Stringer's quiet return

In his first game back since injuring his hamstring against Carlton in round 17, Stringer started slowly. He had just the one kick in the opening quarter, but warmed into the game as it wore on. His second quarter was better with six disposals, including four marks, but 'The Package' appears to be a shadow of his best. He had three shots at goal in the second term as the Bulldogs stormed back into the contest, but couldn't convert, kicking two behinds (one hit the post), and one out on the full. Things didn't improve in the third term for Stringer, who had added just one disposal to his tally. He wasn't the only quiet Dog, with midfielder Tom Liberatore also out of sorts on Friday night. He  finished the game as the Bulldogs' fourth lowest possession-getter on the ground with just 10 touches.