CLEARLY stung by its final-quarter capitulation against Sydney last week, Geelong has rebounded strongly with a commanding 61-point win over Greater Western Sydney under the Friday night lights at GMHBA Stadium.
The Cats signalled their intent from the outset – particularly in the way they hunted the opposition around the contest and crunched the Giants in tackles - as they kept GWS to its second-lowest score ever (32 points) on their way to a 14.9 (93) to 4.8 (32) victory.
Geelong, which went into the clash with the fourth worst time-in-forward-half differential in the competition, dominated the territory battle and its ability to create repeat entries was a decisive factor in victory.
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That forward-half dominance allowed the Cats' developing defence to set up confidently behind the ball, as Mark Blicavs (10 intercepts), youngster Jack Henry (11 marks and nine intercepts) and Tom Stewart (24 touches and 12 marks) were able to pick off the Giants' forward forays time and again.
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Joel Selwood and Patrick Dangerfield, who played forward for much of the game, were by no means dominant, but another sublime midfield performance from mature-age recruit Tim Kelly (30 disposals and five inside 50s) served the Cats well.
Fellow onballer Mitch Duncan (33 disposals and eight clearances) played his best game for the season so far, while Tom Hawkins was a potent force in attack with four goals.
Despite Hawkins’ hot night on the scoreboard, he may come under scrutiny for making contact with umpire Dean Margetts as he argued a free kick he gave away as he raised his knees into Giant Nick Haynes.
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Cats coach Chris Scott lauded his leaders for the way they drove the standards at training this week, off the back of the disappointing loss to the Swans.
"It was pretty complete," Scott said.
"I think the part from our coaching group that we were most pleased with was our senior players were disappointed in their performance in some of the fundamentals last week and were determined to turn it around.
"I came to the ground with great confidence because when our senior players have that attitude they generally deliver."
GWS missed Jeremy Cameron (toe) desperately and without him, and with Jonathon Patton forced to spend a large chunk of time in the ruck, the forward structure fell away dramatically.
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The Giants took just two marks inside 50 for the game (one coming in the final term when Jeremy Finlayson was shifted forward to provide a spark).
Led by Hawkins and recruit Stewart Crameri, playing his first game since round two, 2017, Geelong hung on to 17 of their marks in attack.
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Missing up to nine of their best 22 players, Greater Western Sydney was never in the game and by the end of the contest the gulf between the two sides was plain for all to see.
The Giants butchered the ball by foot, operating at 47 per cent at one stage in the final term (the seventh-lowest in history according to Champion Data) and failed to take their opportunities, kicking an inaccurate 4.8.
Giants coach Leon Cameron said his team did not "step up to the plate" in a showpiece game for the club on Friday night.
"Our tackle pressure was good, the clearance work was even but when you kick at 45 per cent and handball at 67 per cent that's great pressure from them, but when you do that over and over again for 120 minutes that's not up to standard and we fell really short in an A-grade game again."
Dylan Shiel (31 disposals and nine inside 50s) and Stephen Coniglio (28) were standouts on an extremely disappointing night for the Giants who offered little resistance.
WATCH: Shiel gets stood on
After a slip-up against the Swans last Saturday, Geelong's season is now back on track at 4-3 (win-loss record) with the Cats set to welcome back superstar midfielder Gary Ablett from injury against Collingwood next Sunday.
The third-placed Giants have slipped back to the pack and have plenty of work to do, having to navigate a lengthy injury list in the process, before they are considered legitimate premiership contenders once again.
Geelong: Esava Ratugolea landed awkwardly on his lower back after taking a spectacular mark in the first quarter. Ratugolea had his back worked on by the physio but returned to play out the remainder of the game. Defender Jed Bews was forced from the field after copping a knock to the shoulder in the last quarter, but the injury did not appear to be serious.
Greater Western Sydney: Giants star midfielder Dylan Shiel left the field early in the third term after being stepped on by Cats opponent Scott Selwood. Shiel spent some time on the bench, but returned to finish the game.
The Cats have an eight-day break to recuperate before a clash with Collingwood at the MCG next Sunday. The depleted Giants will face an in-form Eagles line-up in their second game at Spotless Stadium for the season.
GEELONG 4.1 7.2 12.3 14.9 (93)
GREATER WESTERN SYDNEY 1.0 2.5 2.7 4.8 (32)
Geelong: Hawkins 4, Ratugolea 2, Dangerfield 2, Crameri 2, Murdoch, Gregson, Thurlow, Stewart
Greater Western Sydney: Finlayson 2, Ward, Lloyd
Geelong: Hawkins, Duncan, Kelly, Stewart, Blicavs, Dangerfield, Henry
Greater Western Sydney: Shiel, Coniglio, Haynes, Taranto
Geelong: Bews (shoulder), Smith (back spasms) replaced in selected side by Stanley
Greater Western Sydney: Nil
Umpires: Margetts, Schmitt, Hay
Official crowd: 25,079 at the GMHBA Stadium