HAWTHORN has all but snuffed out Gold Coast's finals hopes, holding off a final-quarter Suns fightback for a seven-point win at University of Tasmania Stadium on Saturday afternoon.
Veteran Hawk Jack Gunston booted five goals in the 10.10 (70) to 8.15 (63) result in the milestone match of skipper Ben McEvoy.
HAWKS v SUNS Full match coverage and stats
Hawthorn booted the opening goal and never relinquished the lead from there, quelling the Suns' chances in the opening term when they had the advantage of a strong breeze behind them.
Despite leading at each change, the Hawks did have some nervous moments late with Gold Coast virtually setting up camp in its forward-half.
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Trailing by 17 points at three-quarter time, the Suns kicked the opening two goals of the fourth term and got within a goal with about five minutes left on the clock.
Gold Coast was left to rue several missed opportunities in the final quarter, with big man Mabior Chol and rookie Mac Andrew missing gettable set shots.
McEvoy picked up a crucial mark in defence inside the final two minutes as the Hawks scrambled for their eighth win of the year despite scoring just one point in the last term.
The loss all but puts an end to Gold Coast's maiden finals dream, with the Suns now needing to win their final two hitouts and have results fall their way to have any hope of playing in September.
Gunston threatened to tear the game open from the start, booting the opening two goals of the match and had four to his name by half time. His five-goal haul continued his rich vein of form, with 11 goals in the past three matches one of the keys to the Hawks' late-season resurgence.
The Suns were slow out of the blocks and took until the 21st minute to register their opening major but trailed by just eight points at the first break.
Hawthorn pulled ahead in the second term with three goals straight, including Gunston's third which was shortly followed by a fourth on the run, for a 21-point half-time lead.
Despite having the breeze at their back in the all-important third term, the Suns could only equal Hawthorn's two goals.
Hawk Jaeger O'Meara had eight clearances and eight tackles from his 20 disposals in a brilliant display, while David Swallow (30 disposals and five clearances), Brandon Ellis (27 disposals) were two of the Suns' best.
Hawthorn's Jarman Impey was put on report in the third quarter for a bump on Darcy Macpherson.
Young Hawks begin to fly
There's plenty to like about Hawthorn as the young group continues to improve under first-year coach Sam Mitchell. After a flying start to the season, the Hawks went on to win just one of their next 10 matches and were languishing near the bottom of the ladder just over a month ago. But Saturday's win over finals aspirant Gold Coast made it four wins from the Hawks' past five matches and was probably the best of their 2022 campaign. The gradual improvement of the young side over the season should have Hawks fans excited for what's in store in the future.
Sun sets on Gold Coast's finals dream
Gold Coast appears all but gone in their quest for finals in 2022. The result leaves the Suns in 11th position on the ladder, two wins outside the top eight with two rounds remaining and a host of teams above them still to play in round 21. Should results go their way this weekend, the Suns will still need to make every post a winner and hope results continue to go their way.
Big boy's big milestone
Much-loved Hawthorn skipper Ben McEvoy celebrated game 250 in style, finishing with 31 hitouts and jagging a goal to top off the memorable win for his side. He was instrumental in saving the game late, picking up a crucial mark in defence inside the final two minutes as the Suns were surging. It hasn't been an easy ride for the Hawks' inspirational big man, especially in 2022 when he's managed just six games following a fractured neck that had him considering his playing future. The 33-year-old is the 275th player in VFL/AFL history to play 250 games at the highest level.
HAWTHORN 3.5 8.8 10.9 10.10 (70)
GOLD COAST 2.3 5.5 7.10 8.15 (63)
Hawthorn: Gunston 5, Breust, Koschitzke, McEvoy, O’Meara, Ward
Gold Coast: Hollands 2, Holman 2, Ainsworth, Casboult, Sharp, Witts
Hawthorn: O’Meara, Gunston, Moore, Newcombe, Sicily, Mitchell
Gold Coast: Swallow, Hollands, Witts, Ellis, Ainsworth
Gold Coast: Nil
Hawthorn: James Blanck (unused)
Gold Coast: Rory Atkins (unused)