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Cats shake off spirited Saints to maintain gap at the top

Highlights: Geelong v St Kilda The Cats and Saints clash in round 17

THIS was hardly vintage Geelong.

However, as many sides are quickly finding out, any win in season 2019 is a good win.

Made to scrap, claw and grind away for most of the evening, the Cats found it difficult to shake a depleted and downtrodden Saints side at GMHBA Stadium on Saturday night.

Superstar Gary Ablett celebrates one of his two goals against the Saints. Picture: AFL Photos

But in a season where the evenness of the League is almost unprecedented – and after a run of two defeats in three games – Geelong's 27-point win was still vitally important.

On paper, this was a game the Cats perhaps should have found more comfortable. A first half controlled mostly by the Saints soon put an end to that school of thought.

CATS SHAKE OFF SAINTS Full match coverage and stats

The 12.12 (84) to 8.9 (57) victory was instead the result of a defensively dominant second half, where Geelong overwhelmed St Kilda by holding it goalless for a total of 54 minutes.

Patrick Dangerfield was the star of the show, lifting after the main break to finish with an impressive 32 disposals, nine clearances, seven tackles and a goal.

He had good support from Mitch Duncan (33 disposals, one goal) and Gryan Miers (23 disposals, one goal), as the Cats reaffirmed their position as the team to beat this season.

St Kilda, on the other hand, fell to its fifth loss in six games, with the pressure undoubtedly set to continue to be heaped upon the shoulders of under-siege coach Alan Richardson.

But despite the rough patch, St Kilda never looked like it wasn't committed to the cause.

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The Saints matched the Cats at the contest and were noticeably more physical from the outset, soon conveying their improved willingness on the scoreboard.

Despite trailing by 14 points at the first change, St Kilda kicked the opening four goals of the second quarter to quickly snatch the lead – and control of the match – from Geelong.

It was certainly what St Kilda's impressive efforts deserved, with the pressure generated around the ball causing considerable concern for their ladder-leading opponents.

Geelong steadied by half-time, but still trailed by two points at the main break.

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Fortunately for the home fans, the Cats clicked into gear after the interval. They kicked the only three goals of the third term, providing a defensive masterclass at the other end.

Geelong held St Kilda goalless for nearly two whole quarters in a period stretching from the second to the fourth term, all the while easing clear of the desperate and frustrated visitors.

Blake Acres eventually broke the drought midway through the final term, kicking the Saints' first major since their four unanswered goals to start the second quarter, but it wasn't enough.

SHOWREEL Double trouble from Duncan and Dangerfield

Instead, Gary Ablett responded with two in a minute at the other end to belatedly get the party started for Geelong – keeping the Cats two games clear at the top of the ladder.

MEDICAL ROOM
Geelong: Cats champion Gary Ablett limped from the field midway through the third quarter, appearing to be battling a hip complaint. However, he returned from the changerooms about 10 minutes later and played out the game.

St Kilda: The Saints finished the match with a clean bill of health.

NEXT UP
Geelong meets traditional rivals Hawthorn at the MCG next Sunday, while St Kilda will face the Western Bulldogs at Marvel Stadium in the twilight slot later on Sunday.

GEELONG    4.4    5.7     8.8    12.12 (84)
ST KILDA     2.2    6.3     6.7      8.9 (57)

GOALS
Geelong: Guthrie 2, Ratugolea 2, Ablett 2, Dangerfield, Duncan, Kelly, Miers, Atkins, Hawkins
St Kilda: 
Bruce 3, Long 2, Marshall, Lonie, Acres

BEST
Geelong: Dangerfield, Duncan, Miers, Selwood, Stewart, Guthrie
St Kilda: Marshall, Clark, Dunstan, Steele, Gresham, Bruce

INJURIES
Geelong: Nil
St Kilda: Nil

Reports: Nil

Umpires: Donlon, Fisher, O'Gorman

Official crowd: 24,035 at GMHBA Stadium