GEELONG has held off a rampaging Western Bulldogs outfit to win by 13 points at Marvel Stadium despite the loss of Tom Stewart to concussion.
The Cats had shot out to a 40-point lead before the Dogs ground their way to within just five, with Jeremy Cameron booting three crucial fourth-quarter goals in the 12.11 (83) to 10.10 (70) win.
Dogs star Bailey Smith will have a nervous wait, reported for a headbutt on Zach Tuohy during a three-quarter time scuffle.
In the first quarter, Geelong was simply ferocious, reaching that rare air where every single moment turns to gold and kicking the first six of the match. Jeremy Cameron booted three – including his 500th – as he and Tom Hawkins threatened to tear the game apart.
DOGS v CATS Full match coverage and stats
And then, the circuit breaker. Champion defender Stewart concussed himself when tackling Smith in the second quarter, and then it seemed to be a question of whether Geelong’s 40-point lead was enough.
The Bulldogs found some dash and dare with their ball movement, closing the gap in the stoppages and taking advantage of a Cats defence which now featured alternating duo Gary Rohan and Mark O’Connor, given Jake Kolodjashnij was a late withdrawal due to health and safety protocols.
However, their entries inside 50 needed more work – the two sides had 27 apiece at the main break, but Geelong were still 24 points ahead.
The Cats then struggled somewhat with their disposal and decision-making as the Bulldogs’ pressure lifted, kicking just two points in the third quarter as the Dogs slowly but surely clawed back five consecutive goals of the own.
Tom Liberatore and Smith were superb, particularly in the third term as the Dogs mounted a comeback, but didn’t have enough support in the first half.
Hawkins received treatment on an injured finger but played out the match.
Come the hour, come the Cameron
The Geelong spearhead was magnificent, coming up against a somewhat undersized Dogs defence. Cameron was crucial in building Geelong’s initial lead, relishing the extra height up forward added by the returning Gary Rohan and moving further afield as a consequence. As the Dogs closed to five points in the last, his last three goals proved to be the difference.
Clash of the blonde titans
The game-long match-up of rising Cats defender Sam De Koning and athletic Dogs key forward Aaron Naughton was an intriguing battle across all four quarters. De Koning stood tall in the first half, while Naughton worked well into the game by the last term, booting what looked to be a crucial major.
Versatile Atkins the Mr Fix-It
Tenacious Cat Tom Atkins was used across all three lines of the ground through the game, his attack on the footy ensuring he was hard to miss. He was one of the Cats’ best, finishing with 20 disposals, eight intercepts and seven score involvements.
WESTERN BULLDOGS 1.5 4.6 6.9 10.10 (70)
GEELONG 7.2 8.6 8.8 12.11 (83)
Western Bulldogs: Liberatore 2, Weightman 2, Bontempelli, Khamis, McNeil, Dale, Naughton, English
Geelong: Cameron 6, Hawkins 2, Atkins, Rohan, Close, Duncan
Western Bulldogs: Liberatore, Smith, Dale, Macrae, Dunkley, Bontempelli
Geelong: Parfitt, Atkins, Cameron, C.Guthrie, Z.Guthrie, Duncan
Western Bulldogs: Nil
Geelong: Stewart (concussion)
Western Bulldogs: Nil
Geelong: Jake Kolodjashnij replaced in selected side by Luke Dahlhaus
Western Bulldogs: Mitch Wallis (unused)
Geelong: Quinton Narkle (replaced Stewart in the second quarter)