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Match report: Cats fight for win over Blues

Highlights: Geelong v Carlton The Cats and Blues clash in round 10

GARY Ablett's much-hyped return to GMHBA Stadium ended in a 28-point Geelong victory, but in no way did it become the celebration of a club legend the adoring home crowd had hopefully anticipated.

An uninspiring performance from the Cats that will again cast doubt over their premiership credentials and a horrific broken ankle that, in all likelihood will end the season of young forward Esava Ratugolea soured the Ablett tribute.


Nevertheless, Ablett finished with 25 touches and a goal in his first game in the Geelong hoops at the stadium since 2010.

GEELONG WINS UGLY Full match coverage and stats

Cats forward Tom Hawkins booted two final quarter goals to inflate his side's lead, as the Cats closed out the 11.7 (73) to 5.15 (45) win against a gallant Blues outfit.

When the Cats went up by four goals with just 11 minutes played in the game, the pro-Geelong crowd could have been forgiven for starting to remove the balloons and streamers from their bags and start the party early.

Debutant Jamaine Jones had kicked his first goal with his first kick in the AFL and Ablett had brought the Cats fans to their feet with a dead-eye set shot.


But from then on the game did not follow the idyllic script the pro-Cats crowd wanted, and instead became the scrap Blues coach Brendon Bolton would have been proud to see.

Unlike last week when it lost to Melbourne by 109 points, Carlton did not roll over and throw in the towel.

Still, Geelong had too much class across the board with Cats defender Tom Stewart again outstanding with 26 disposals, 10 marks and 11 intercept possessions, while Patrick Dangerfield sparked the midfield with 29 touches.

HARD HOMECOMING Ablett's return to GMHBA tougher than expected

Sam Menegola was influential throughout the game with 23 touches, 10 tackles and two goals – one that came in sensational circumstances late in the final term.


Hawkins stepped up to boot three goals with his role in leading the forward line in Ratugolea's absence to become even more pivotal over the coming weeks.

Cats coach Chris Scott called it a "horrible game".

"We're probably a little bit flat, irrespective of the result it just feels like a poor performance," Scott said.

"I don't think we played particularly well. I thought it was a horrible game. I don't think we helped ourselves much, I thought we were undisciplined at times (and) gave them a chance to get into the game.

"I suspect in review we'll be pleased to just take the win and move on from that one."

The scene would have been all too familiar for Carlton when they trailed the Cats by 24 points early in the first quarter in their first match at Kardinia Park since 1997, but led by their senior leaders they were able to fight back into the contest and make Geelong work for their victory on home turf.

Kade Simpson (33 disposals), Patrick Cripps (30) and Ed Curnow (30) were all vital in the Blues' much-improved effort, while Charlie Curnow looked dangerous every time he went near the footy in his return from a quad injury.

SHOWREEL Ablett back home at the Cattery

The Blues closed the margin to eight points in the final quarter but their inaccuracy in front of goal (they booted 5.15 on a dewy night) and lack of composure in key moments prevented them from seriously threatening the Ablett party.

"There were plenty of opportunities to actually finish, they kicked 11.7, so there's the ball game," Bolton said.

"We won the inside 50s (51-47) the tackles (75-71), so there were some opportunities to hit the scoreboard where we didn't."

Geelong moved back into the top eight and will stay there when the round ends, but Ratugolea's injury could have far reaching repercussions for its hopes and dreams of hoisting the premiership cup aloft at the end of the year.

Geelong: Ratugolea was stretchered from the field in the second quarter after he got his right leg awkwardly trapped underneath his body in a marking contest. The forward was transported by ambulance to hospital where he will undergo scans. The Cats suspect Ratugolea has a broken ankle. Superstar midfielder Gary Ablett came from the field complaining of a sore right elbow, but returned almost immediately to the field. Defender Jed Bews was split open after an errant elbow from teammate Zach Tuohy in the final quarter.

Carlton: Sam Kerridge limped off late in the second term with a corked shin but managed to get through the game. Patrick Cripps ended the game with a bandage on his leg, but coach Brendon Bolton says it was just a 'corkie'. 

Geelong will travel up north to face Gold Coast in the Suns' first match at Metricon Stadium this season after the ground was unavailable because of the Commonwealth Games. The Blues will have a six-day turnaround ahead of a Friday night clash with Sydney.

GEELONG        4.0       5.3       7.5       11.7 (73)
CARLTON        2.1       2.7       4.11     5.15 (45)

Hawkins 3, Menegola 2, Jones, Ablett, Murdoch, Crameri, Cunico, Dangerfield
Carlton: C.Curnow, McKay, Kerr, Cuningham, Wright

Geelong: Stewart, Dangerfield, Menegola, Henry, Duncan, Hawkins
Carlton: Cripps, Simpson, Plowman, Kreuzer, E.Curnow 

Geelong: Taylor (foot) replaced in selected side by Black, Ratugolea (broken ankle)
Carlton: Nil 

Reports: Nil

Umpires: Mollison, Foot, Glouftsis

Official crowd: 31,090 at GMHBA Stadium