Geelong and Hawthorn produced yet another epic AFL clash on Saturday night with Geelong winning the top-of-the-table contest by 10 points in front of an MCG crowd of over 85,000.
Geelong claimed their 11th consecutive win over the Hawks since the 2008 grand final with an 11.16 (82) to 10.12 (72) triumph.
Hawthorn fought back from 33 points down in the final term to within three points with a five-goal burst in a gripping contest.
Sam Mitchell was unstoppable in midfield for the Hawks with 37 disposals while onballer Joel Selwood and youngster Jordan Murdoch were heroes for the Cats.
Murdoch kicked three goals in the final term.
It was the first loss since round one for ladder-leaders Hawthorn, as Geelong joined the Hawks on 12 victories.
Geelong led by 16 points at quarter-time and 18 at halftime.
Hawthorn dominated general play in the third term but kicked only 1.3 to Geelong’s seven behinds as the Cats clung to a 16-point lead at the final change.
The Cats struck two decisive blows with goals to Murdoch and 12th-gamer Jesse Stringer in the fourth and sixth minutes of the final term.
Murdoch, the 21-year-old South Australian in his 15th senior game, booted his second goal of the match in the 10th minute of the last quarter as the Cats jumped clear by 33 points.
But remarkably after scoring four goals in the first three quarters, the Hawks kicked five majors in nine minutes including one from ruckman David Hale resulting from a controversial interchange penalty against the Cats.
Josh Caddy’s goal from the boundary at the 24-minute mark gave the Cats some comfort, followed by Murdoch’s third goal two minutes later to make it a 16-point game.
Cats’ onballer Joel Corey was concussed after a clash with Mitchell on the wing and while Corey lay motionless on the ground, players from both sides had a push-and-shove contest.
The Hawks scored a late goal through Shane Savage.
Port Adelaide host Hawthorn at AAMI Stadium on July 13 and the Cats host Melbourne at Simonds Stadium on the same day.
Geelong coach Chris Scott said the interchange stewards had admitted to the Cats they’d made a mistake in awarding a free-kick and a 50-metre penalty against Geelong’s Josh Hunt in the last quarter which resulted in a goal to Hawthorn ruckman David Hale.
“It’s a horrible error but it didn’t cost us the game, so all’s well that ends well,” Scott said.
Hawthorn coach Alastair Clarkson said the interchange rule was too harsh.
Clarkson said he would hate to win a big game like Saturday night’s clash on the back of a dubious free-kick and goal for an interchange penalty.