GEELONG has just held on against a fast-finishing but inaccurate Sydney, with a Patrick Dangerfield goal in the final second pushing the margin to 22 points on Saturday night.
The Cats have now won seven games in a row after the 13.7 (85) to 8.15 (63) victory at GMHBA Stadium.
It was initially shaping up to be the perfect storm for Geelong. The Cats hadn't dropped a game since round four and were up against an opponent slowly growing in confidence and form after a rough start to the year.
CATS PURRING ON TOP Full match details and stats
To make matters worse, GMHBA Stadium – often a difficult ground for opposition clubs – held no fear for Sydney, having beaten Geelong on its home deck on the last three occasions.
An upset was definitely on the cards early.
The Swans were on fire, comprehensively outplaying the Cats around the ground. They were rebounding well and controlling play, skipping out to a 14-point lead after a three-bounce switch-kick from Nick Blakey led to a Will Hayward goal.
Superstar midfielder Dangerfield had started forward in his return after a week off with an ankle injury, but was thrown into the middle as the Swans piled on the goals.
The effect was almost instantaneous. Geelong kicked the next four goals in less than six minutes, including two from Tom Hawkins.
The Swans showed some maturity after quarter-time, slowing the onslaught of goals and kicking several of their own.
Geelong's ability to score and score quickly has set it apart from other teams this year, and it was on show again on Saturday night.
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The Cats played bursts of scintillating footy deserving of top spot on the ladder – quickfire, accurate and almost always converting on the scoreboard.
But they were only bursts.
Around that, Sydney continued to plug away, slowing the Cats' run, peppering the goals but struggling to kick accurately in front of goal.
The final quarter was a tense affair, with Sydney refusing to go away and Geelong suddenly struggling to convert.
Lance Franklin had a chance to cut the margin to just 11 points with four minutes left, but his set shot floated right.
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The hype pre-match had been around Gary Rohan and Daniel Menzel, the forwards lining up against their former sides for the first time after effectively trading places in the off-season.
Neither had much of an impact on the match, Menzel kicking a goal in the fourth term in his return from a groin injury and first match as a Swan, and Rohan finishing with four touches.
The usual suspects for Geelong stood up. The out-of-contract Tim Kelly (25 disposals, six clearances), who shook off a dogged George Hewett, is increasing his asking price by the week, while hard-running Cat Mitch Duncan (22 and five inside 50s) continued his rich vein of form.
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Tom Hawkins kicked his fourth consecutive bag of four goals but could be in hot water with the MRO after he clipped Jordan Dawson's head with his forearm, well after the Swan had marked.
For Sydney, Luke Parker (28 touches) led the way in a midfield desperately missing Josh Kennedy (knee), with Hewett (30) winning plenty of his own ball while shutting down Kelly for a period.
The no-nonsense defensive pairing of Jake Lloyd and Dane Rampe battled hard in defence, rebounding well, while draftee forward Blakey provided a few highlights with surprisingly speedy runs down the wing.
Geelong: Rhys Stanley was a late withdrawal with an adductor injury for the second time in three weeks. Coach Chris Scott wasn’t overly concerned, but didn’t say whether Stanley would be right to face Richmond next week.
Sydney: The Swans got through the match unscathed.
The Cats head up the highway on Friday night to face Richmond at the MCG, with the Tigers no doubt keen to bounce back after a big loss to North Melbourne. Things don't get much easier for the Swans as they face West Coast at the SCG next Sunday.
GEELONG 5.1 7.2 11.4 13.7 (85)
SYDNEY 3.3 5.8 6.12 8.15 (63)
Geelong: Hawkins 4, Ratugolea 2, Dangerfield 2, Kelly, Clark, Duncan, Dahlhaus, Miers,
Sydney: Haywood 2, Franklin, Papley, Heeney, Reid, Blakey, Menzel
Geelong:Kelly, Dangerfield, Stewart, Duncan, Hawkins
Sydney: Parker, Lloyd, Hewett, Dawson, Heeney
Geelong: Rhys Stanley (adductor) replaced in selected side by Zac Smith
Umpires: Donlon, Hosking, Harris
Official crowd: 29,021 at GMHBA Stadium