Cats overcome Swans to book qualifying final berth
GEELONG survived a massive scare to lock in an AFL top-four spot as Gary Ablett showed flashes of brilliance on his return to action in a six-point win over lowly Sydney.
The injury-ravaged Swans stunned the Cats early with four of the first five goals and led until the four-minute mark of the final term.
But class eventually told as Patrick Dangerfield, Sam Menegola, Brandon Parfitt and Tom Stewart played key roles in the Cats’ crucial 10.9 (69) to 9.9 (63) victory at Metricon Stadium.
It took a desperate late smother from Mark Blicavs on James Rowbottom to secure the result on the final play of the game.
It gave Geelong fourth spot on the ladder and a double chance for the finals, starting with a qualifying showdown with either Brisbane or Port Adelaide.
Dangerfield was moved permanently forward after half-time on Sunday and kicked three crucial late goals to help drag the Cats over the line.
Menegola, Parfitt and Stewart were busy throughout but Geelong’s midfield struggled to gain ascendancy against a Swans on-ball division led by experienced campaigners Josh Kennedy and Luke Parker.
Sydney got the early jump, registering their highest first-quarter score of the season (5.4), but lost James Bell to concussion after a head clash with Jordan Dawson.
Their nine-point lead at quarter-time would have been greater if not for Tom Papley’s miss from the top of the square running into an open goal.
Ablett’s first two touches were goal assists and he kicked one himself before quarter-time to help stem the tide, but he was one of few Cats to have much of an impact to that point.
The free-flowing contest became a grind during a goalless second term.
Dangerfield’s move forward helped change the game and the superstar put the Cats in front with the first goal of the final quarter.
He added another moments later and could have had a fourth from a free kick, but the advantage was paid when Parfitt kicked a goal off the deck.
The Cats endured nervous moments in the dying stages.
Papley cut the margin back to 11 points and Justin McInerney trimmed it to six with 19 seconds remaining before Blicavs’ late heroics.
Chief goal sneak Papley was an ever-present threat in attack but was wasteful in kicking 2.5.
Parfitt and Coleman Medal leader Tom Hawkins finished with two goals each for Geelong.
(C) AAP 2020
GEELONG 4.1 4.3 7.7 10.9 (69)
SYDNEY 5.4 5.8 7.9 9.9 (63)
Goals: Geelong: P Dangerfield 3 B Parfitt 2 T Hawkins 2 C Guthrie G Ablett Z Tuohy. Sydney: J McInerney 2 T Papley 2 A Aliir J Dawson J Kennedy N Blakey S Reid.
Umpires: Chris Donlon, Brett Rosebury, Nick Brown.
Official Crowd: 2,798 at Metricon Stadium.