Highlights: Geelong v Gold Coast
The Cats and Suns clash in round 10
Jimmy Bartel marks strongly during the Cats' win over the Suns at Skilled Stadium
GEELONG has marked its first game under lights at Simonds Stadium with a 52-point win over Gold Coast, although the victory was anything but the cakewalk that the final score suggests.
Fireworks lit up the sky before the match to celebrate the switching on of the lights and the opening of the new Players Stand, but the Suns looked set to play the role of party poopers when they kicked five consecutive goals in the third quarter and snatched a 12-point lead.
However, the Cats averted an upset loss by booting 9.5 to 1.2 in the final quarter and prevailing 18.15 (123) to 10.11 (71).
"It was stressful," Geelong coach Chris Scott admitted
. "We didn't play well early, but I think we've all got to stop talking about them as a young, developing expansion team. They're a good team.
"They played really well in the slippery conditions and pressured us better than we pressured them early.
"But the reason I'm in a good mood now is that quarter was fantastic."
It was Geelong's ninth win of the season and its 37th victory from its past 38 games at Simonds Stadium.
Highly-rated big man Nathan Vardy enjoyed a outstanding return to elite footy, booting four goals in his first AFL game since last year's elimination final loss to Fremantle.
Ruckman Mark Blicavs was among Geelong's other key contributors while Jimmy Bartel, Mitch Duncan, Steve Johnson and James Kelly - who was back in the team after serving his two-match suspension - won plenty of the ball.
Bartel mastered the greasy conditions that were brought on by heavy rain prior to the opening bounce, gathering 30 possessions and booting three goals in a best on ground performance.
Yet the Cats were again well beaten around the clearances, which ended 45 to 33 in Gold Coast's favour.
The Suns were left to rue their inaccurate kicking in the second quarter, during which they had a number of chances to open a big lead but only managed 1.6.
Brandon Matera was the chief culprit, missing a couple of easy shots on the run, although he made up for it by gathering 18 touches in the first half.
However, Matera had to be subbed out of the contest early in the third quarter after failing to recover from an ankle injury that he suffered shortly before half-time.
In his first game at Simonds Stadium in a Gold Coast jumper, Gary Ablett was booed a few times early on by his former home crowd and also had a couple of run-ins with former teammate Steve Johnson.
But the Suns' skipper produced many moments of magic, none better than the extraordinary goal he booted from 45m out, up against the boundary line in the right pocket, midway through the last quarter.
"The people in front of us stood up and bowed," Scott said. "I felt like joining in.
"If he's not the best player I've ever seen, he's pretty close."
Gold Coast midfielder Luke Russell snared the honour of kicking the first goal under lights at Simonds Stadium, while Campbell Brown finished as the Suns' leading scorer with three.
Key defender Rory Thompson was another great contributor for the visiting team. He enjoyed a very entertaining battle with Tom Hawkins, holding the Geelong forward to just nine possessions and two goals.
"I could not fault their effort," Suns coach Guy McKenna said of his players
. "They were super – moved the ball really well and, to be honest, even at half-time and three-quarter time we probably should have had our noses in front.
"We missed some gettable goals that the boys have kicked before, but, again, you can't fault their effort."
Gold Coast will be aiming to get back on the winners' list when it hosts North Melbourne at Metricon Stadium next Saturday night.
Geelong should win its 10th game of the season when it takes on Greater Western Sydney at Skoda Stadium next Saturday afternoon.
Young Sun Timmy Sumner dives to tackle Geelong's Josh Hunt. Picture: AFL Media
GEELONG 3.2 6.6 9.10 18.15 (123)
GOLD COAST 3.2 4.8 9.10 10.11 (71)
Geelong: Vardy 4, Bartel 3, Motlop 2, Hawkins 2, Guthrie 2, Burbury, West, Duncan, Blicavs, Hunt
Gold Coast: Brown 3, Ablett 2, Rischitelli, Lynch, O'Meara, Russell, Harbrow,
Geelong: Bartel, Kelly, Johnson, Hunt, Duncan, Blicavs, Selwood
Gold Coast: O'Meara, Ablett, Thompson, Prestia, McKenzie
Gold Coast: Matera (ankle)
Geelong: Allen Christensen replaced Mitch Brown in the third quarter
Gold Coast: Kyal Horsley replaced Brandon Matera in the third quarter
Umpires: Fila, Ryan, McInerney
Official crowd: 30,082 at Simonds Stadium