ASHTON Hams and Ben Saunders returned to add some bite to South Fremantle's forward-line and combined for seven goals to help the Bulldogs to their first win of the 2013 season over Peel.
South Fremantle beat Peel Thunder by 15 points at Fremantle Oval to bring up the Bulldogs' first four points of the season in an impressive display against a Peel side that had won two of its last three games and pushed the unbeaten Claremont to the wire in between.
The Bulldogs had two weeks to stew over a heartbreaking loss to East Perth where they just about had the win sewn up on several occasions, and came out on fire against the Thunder at Fremantle Oval on Saturday.
Jarrad Winter got the first goal of the game and then Hams and Gillespie added one each in a fast start for the home side. When captain Ryan Cook and the returning Saunders added majors also, South Fremantle had the first five goals of the game before the Thunder got on the board.
South Fremantle was still 20 points up at quarter-time and that was back out to 26 when Hams added his second to start the second term.
The Thunder fought back into the contest, but Hams' third and Saunders' second of the half stretched South Fremantle's lead out to 29 points just before half-time and the advantage remained 20 still at the main break.
South Fremantle has been struggling in third quarters in recent times and that continued on Saturday but fortunately for the Bulldogs, Peel couldn’t take full advantage of their control of play.
The Thunder held the Bulldogs to just three behinds for the term but only kicked 2.9 themselves with South Fremantle still two points in front at the last change.
South Fremantle managed to steady with the first goal of the last quarter to lead by eight points again, but Peel wouldn’t go away and got back to within a point soon after.
However, Hams booted his fourth to put South Fremantle back up by seven and then Winter's second stretched it out to 12 before the Bulldogs sealed the win and held on to prevail 14.15 (99) to 11.18 (84).
Hams and Saunders were the stars up forward with South Fremantle with West Coast's Hams playing his first WAFL game of the season and kicking four goals from 24 possessions and eight marks.
Saunders played his first game since breaking his collarbone in Round 1 against Claremont and kicked three goals from six kicks, but did hurt his shoulder again during the third quarter and didn’t return. Scans on Monday will reveal the full extent of the damage.
Ruckman Sean Tighe was dominant in the middle for South Fremantle finishing with 31 possessions, seven marks, 33 hit outs and four entries inside-50 in an outstanding performance.
The Bulldogs' midfield worked tirelessly all day with Kris Miller racking up 34 possessions, Cook 27 to go with his two goals, Mitch Banner 27, Toby Bairstow 26, Sam Lowrie 23, Shannon Burnett 22 and Jacob Martinez 19 to go with nine strong tackles.
The defence held up strongly as well led by Brendon Gulley who did a good job keeping dangerous Peel forward Brad Holmes to just the one goal.
Not only did South Fremantle's league side win on Saturday, but so did the reserves and colts in the best day of 2013 so far for the Bulldogs.
The reserves beat Peel 17.13 (115) to 8.5 (53) with Jarrod Parry impressive on return from his horror run of knee injuries. He finished with 21 possessions and five marks in his first appearance since hurting his knee again in Round 12 last year.
Willie Rioli kicked five goals for the Bulldogs with Kingsley Smith, Alex Grima and Mitch Carter all adding two while Dale Hamilton picked up 24 possessions, Tim Kelly 19, Brendan Verrier 18, Reece Adams 18 and Zac Strom 18 to go with 20 hit outs.
The South Fremantle colts also had a comfortable 8.13 (61) to 5.4 (34) victory over Peel. Cameron McCarthy kicked three goals with Tim Stewart collecting 25 possessions, Ben Sokol 24, Matthew Gundry 22, Bailey Matera 21 and Tom Wheeler 19.
SOUTH FREMANTLE 5.4 10.7 10.10 14.15 (99)
PEEL THUNDER 2.2 7.5 9.14 11.18 (84)
SOUTH FREMANTLE – Goals: Hams 4; Saunders 3; Cook, Winter 2; Banner, Gillespie, Burnett.
Best: Tighe, Miller, Hams, Cook, Burnett, Banner, Martinez.
PEEL THUNDER – Goals: Taberner 3; Smith, Thornton, Gilliam 2; Wilkins, Holmes.
Best: Michie, Taberner, Jones, Orzel, Garlett, Bower.
By Chris Pike