West Coast Challenges but the Cats show thier class
GEELONG 4.2 8.3 15.8 18.14 (122)
WEST COAST 3.7 7.9 12.10 14.14 (98)
Geelong: Byrnes 4, Johnson 3, Wojcinski 2, Ablett 2, Podsiadly, Hunt, Varcoe, Enright, J Selwood, Stokes, Mackie.
West Coast: McKinley 3, Kennedy 3, Naitanui 2, Le Cras 2, Embley, Cox, Ebert, Dalziell.
Geelong: Chapman, Wojcinski, Byrnes, Bartel, Enright, Ablett.
West Coast: Waters, Priddis, Embley, McKinley, Hurn, Naitanui.
Geelong: Ling (shoulder) replaced by Taylor Hunt.
West Coast: Adam Selwood (shoulder).
UMPIRES Donlon, Farmer, Dalgleish.
CROWD: 33,784 at Subiaco.
FINGERNAILS, rather than focaccia, were digested by Geelong coach Mark Thompson at Subiaco last night as his side was made to graft before prevailing over West Coast by 24 points.
Two years ago, during the Cats’ embarrassingly easy 135-point demolition of the Eagles, the Geelong mentor was caught on camera tucking into a sandwich as his side feasted on the opposition.
For five minutes in the first quarter, it appeared a similar banquet might be served up by the reigning premier after it responded to Josh Kennedy’s 12th-second opener with four majors.
But after a week that saw the Eagles issue a ringing endorsement of under-fire coach John Worsfold, his team did the same by its actions to give Geelong an uncomfortable night in WA.
It prevailed eventually through its ability to do the right things when it mattered most, reacting to Nic Naitanui’s inspirational acts in the third term with a few of its own.
Shannon Byrnes’ third goal on the three-quarter-time siren was a huge body blow for the home side, but the knockout punch did not come until much later in the last, engineered by the peerless Paul Chapman.
With Gary Ablett an angry and irritated figure for much of the night, Chapman’s appetite for the fight proved the difference – although Beau Waters was arguably best-on-ground for the losing side.
It was Chapman who set up Steve Johnson 10 minutes into the last to render the Eagles’ efforts brave, rather than heroic, and elevate themselves one game clear of Fremantle on the AFL ladder.
After ending Geelong’s winning run of quarters at 21 as they drew level at half-time, the Eagles continued to punch above their weight, even with the loss of Adam Selwood to a high bump from Corey Enright.
It was the attention Selwood senior was paying to Ablett junior which was stifling the champion, to such an extent that the Brownlow medallist’s body language was mostly negative, even though his early contributions were positive.
The little master had been overlooked for the captaincy in the absence of Cameron Ling – but history told that the AFL’s most wanted man would be the difference.
With 39 possessions, two goals and three Brownlow votes in 2008, Ablett was even better against the Eagles last year with 43, two goals and three more Brownlow votes.
After the triumvirate of Naitanui, Tom Swift and Kennedy combined to give the Eagles their first goal in the blink of an eye, it was Ablett who sparked Geelong’s early scoreboard dominance.
Winning the first quarter clearances by an amazing 14-1, the Eagles had 10 scoring shots to six, more inside 50s and the favour of the umpires.
West Coast should have been ahead.
But a sublime five-minute burst – which produced four Cats goals – and misses from Mitch Brown, Kennedy and Brad Ebert combined for a one-point lead for the visitors and another quarter conquered.
All was not well with the premiers though.
Ablett was clearly not happy.
Cameron Mooney hobbled off with a twisted ankle, and Thompson was banging the table, rather than brushing crumbs off it.
With the Geelong midfielders also feeding off crumbs as Dean Cox and Naitanui continued to dominate the ruck, so the Eagles ended Geelong’s run of winning quarters – as Selwood’s night was finished by Enright’s flying bump.
Naitanui ignited moments into the second half, following up his own errant kick to slot a stunning goal from the boundary.
A towering mark from the same man in the goal square brought more life to a simmering Subiaco crowd.
But every time the threat came the Cats responded, with Chapman the driving force.
No better example came nine minutes into the last term, with the home side pressing.
Cue Chapman, rampaging forward to link defence and attack, and match the fitness with finesse to find Johnson to finally end the Eagles’ resistance.
Like Chapman, the win was not pretty, but in securing a one-game gap at the top of the ladder for his side, it was certainly effective.
Paul Chapman (Geelong): With Gary Ablett playing angry, it was left to the Cats’ other hairless wonder to drag his team over the line. The Dream Team points might tell a different story but make no mistake, the Norm Smith medallist’s influence was the difference between a shock loss and a hard-fought win.
Beau Waters: This time last year, the Eagle feared he may never play AFL football again following a horrific elbow injury. Awarded last season’s best clubman trophy for the way he coped, higher individual honours may await if the acting West Coast captain puts in more performances like this one.
WHERE THE MATCH WAS WON
With the Eagles pressing 10 minutes into the last term, Ben McKinley’s snap shaved the wrong side of the post and the chance of a lead evaporated. Without another Eagle touching the ball, the Cats transferred immaculately, with Chapman’s pass to Steve Johnson the killer blow.
WHERE THE MATCH WAS LOST
All year the Eagles’ kicking out of the midfield has been their Achilles heel, denying the forward line any decent service. On this night, it was the kicking when they got within range that let them down. Three easy chances in the first quarter were squandered to deny the Eagles an early lead. And then the otherwise excellent Ben McKinley missed a fourth-quarter snap that would give the home side a lead and a massive boost.