Geelong have survived an AFL thriller for the second week in a row, holding off rivals Hawthorn by five points in a desperate finish at the MCG.
Ten days after controversially defeating Brisbane by one point, the Cats again fell in by less than a goal after leading the Hawks by 24 points at three-quarter-time on Easter Monday.
Hawks forward Mitch Lewis cut the lead to four points when he goaled with three minutes to go, but the Cats’ experience came through as they thwarted Hawthorn’s attempts to pinch the victory.
Geelong’s only goal of the last quarter was a spectacular running effort from a turnover, as Jordan Clark got on the end of a chain of handballs.
The 10.9 (69) to 9.10 (64) result ensured Isaac Smith claimed bragging rights over his former club in front of 50,030 fans.
The three-time Hawks premiership player was booed every time he went near the ball in his first game against Hawthorn since his off-season move to the Cattery.
After a slow start to the season, last year’s grand finalists were still well below their best but managed to do enough to keep the Hawks at bay and move to a 2-1 record.
“I think it’s about six months off my life every time (with these close games),” Cats coach Chris Scott said.
“It was hard fought and we gave them some looks late, and we didn’t quite play the way we’d like to….but we were good enough to hang in there and it adds to the list of great games that the two clubs have played.”
In a grinding, often sloppy affair, All-Australian Cameron Guthrie dominated with a career-best 43 possessions by doing as he pleased through the midfield.
Hawks champion Tom Mitchell was kept quiet by Mark O’Connor – the second-straight game the Cats stopper has done a job on a Brownlow medallist after the Irishman went with Lachie Neale last week.
A major positive for Hawthorn was the explosive speed of Changkuoth Jiath, who had the Hawks crowd roaring with his runs off half-back in only his 10th AFL game.
“We made plenty of blues across the course of the game but we somehow still found ourselves in the contest late,” Hawks coach Alastair Clarkson said.
“We’re growing with every experience and in the last two weeks we’ve played the grand finalists from last year so it’s a tough start.”
Already without gun recruit Jeremy Cameron and suspended star Patrick Dangerfield, Geelong lost veteran midfielder Shaun Higgins (hamstring) and youngster Francis Evans (ankle) during the contest.
Hawks defender Kyle Hartigan could be in trouble for a clumsy strike on Tom Hawkins, which resulted in a 50m penalty and a crucial goal for the star Cats forward.