GEELONG has shaken off North Melbourne's best efforts at causing a monumental upset, registering its fourth consecutive victory in an entertaining and fast-paced battle at Marvel Stadium on Sunday.
The top-of-the-ladder Cats responded to fierce challenges from the Kangaroos in pulsating third and fourth terms, before reassuming control and running out 24-point winners as Gary Ablett again assumed his role as the ultimate closer.
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Ablett (four goals) was influential with his outstanding finishing ability coming to the fore, although he may again be looked at by the Match Review Officer for a high hit on Roo Sam Wright.
North Melbourne was fiercely competitive for much of the contest and it did a good job of matching the physicality of the Cats, but in the end the class and experience of Geelong, along with its accuracy in front of the big sticks, was telling in the 16.8 (104) to 11.14 (80) win.
Geelong had a number of banged-up players throughout the afternoon, with Tom Atkins spending large portions of the first half on the bench, Tom Stewart being assessed for concussion and Gary Rohan knocked out in a heavy clash with North's Sam Durdin.
However, even with Patrick Dangerfield playing predominantly up forward, the Cats had enough of their top-line talent contributing to get over the line in a match in which their credentials were heavily tested.
Without Joel Selwood for a second straight week, who was a late scratching despite being named to play as a late inclusion for Sam Menegola, Tim Kelly again starred through the midfield with 36 disposals, 11 clearances, eight inside 50s and two goals.
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Mitch Duncan (29 touches and 12 marks) ran himself into the ground in a key role on the wing, Cameron Guthrie (21 disposals and seven clearances) had a key hand in setting up teammates from stoppages and Charlie Constable (27 possessions) made the most of his late reprieve.
Tom Hawkins bagged four goals, while impressive youngster Jordan Clark also hit the scoreboard in a new role on the wing with two long-range majors.
After a tardy start that saw the Cats being outplayed by their opponents in many areas, Geelong appeared to be cruising when Gryan Miers extended the margin to 34 points at the 14-minute mark of the third quarter.
But that's when the Roos found their voice, booting four straight goals – three to Ben Brown and one to Cameron Zurhaar – to close the gap to just 10 points.
North midfielder Ben Cunnington was among his side's best and his ability to consistently win the ball in tight and dish to teammates shone out.
Shaun Higgins gathered 31 touches and seven clearances, while Brown got the better of Mark Blicavs the longer the game went in bagging five majors.
As North Melbourne frittered away chances to get back into the game in the final term, Geelong made its count with Ablett kicking back-to-back goals to put the game to bed.
North Melbourne: The Roos appeared to get through the game unscathed.
Geelong: Tom Atkins came from the ground in the second quarter and spent a lot of time off the field with injury. Tom Stewart was assessed for concussion in the third term after a heavy hit, but returned later in the term. Gary Rohan was knocked out after a clash of heads with Sam Durdin late in the third term and did not return.
Geelong will return home for a clash against the Western Bulldogs at GMHBA Stadium. The Roos will travel down to Hobart to face Sydney at Blundstone Arena.
NORTH MELBOURNE 1.5 4.8 9.8 11.14 (80)
GEELONG 3.0 8.3 14.6 16.7 (103)
North Melbourne: Brown 5, Larkey, Zurhaar, Polec, Wood, Thomas, Higgins
Geelong: Hawkins 4, Ablett 4, Kelly 2, Clark 2, Rohan, Miers, Dahlhaus, Dangerfield
North Melbourne: Cunnington, Higgins, Brown, Atley, Macmillan, Goldstein
Geelong: Kelly, Ablett, Duncan, Guthrie, Hawkins, Stewart, Taylor
North Melbourne: Nil
Geelong: Rohan (concussion), Stewart (neck), Atkins (hamstring)
Umpires: Brown, Whetton, Ryan
Official crowd: 21,156 at Marvel Stadium