Geelong scraped through 20 point winners on Friday night after a thrilling fourth quarter almost saw the Western Bulldogs steal the game from behind. A five goal to three final term eventually saw the Cats over the line with Stevie Johnson staring in a midfield role.
Johnson collected a career high 35 disposals and said after he benefitted from finding space and opportunities where he could. He won a lot of the football and was as exciting as he was effective.Tom Hawkins and Jimmy Bartel were also pivotal players in the fourth, helping Geelong to a 14.11(95)-11.9(75) win.
The Cats were the better team in the first quarter and kicked the first three goals courtesy of some unusual goal kickers in West and Mackie. Higgins kept the Bulldogs in the game with a late goal but Geelong dominated the possession count and were 15 percent more efficient with the ball, but could only take a 15-point lead into quarter-time.
The Bulldogs steadied themselves towards the end of the first and it carried over into the second as Daniel Giansiracusa nabbed the quarter's first. Shortly after Motlop found himself free running straight down the middle of the ground before kicking a nice reply on the run from right on 50 for Geelong.
Stevie Johnson was brilliant in the midfield, gathering 19 half-time possessions and Taylor Hunt added another and Geelong looked to be on top, but the Dogs began get their heads around the Geelong structure and were able to once again stay in touch courtesy of goals to Dickson and Jones.
They came within 11 until Lake gave away a free in a one-on-one marking contest, allowing Hawkins an easy shot goal to break the run. Two late goals; one to Wallis and another after the siren by Giansiracusa powered a furious Bulldogs run, seeing them come within seven at the major break.
A free kick gave Liberatore and the Bulldogs the first of the third in a quarter which saw them win more of the contested ball but somehow still lose the quarter.
The Cats eased away when Chapman was able to kick two goals in just over a minute, the first coming from a look-away handball by Hawkins and the second from a free kick in the goal square.
A poor Bulldogs kick going forward bounced in the worst possible way for two Geelong defenders and allowed Higgins to kick one back before Hawkins bagged Geelong’s third and final goal of the term. Liam Jones took a spectacular mark on the shoulders of Lonergan but missed a pivot set shot on goal that would’ve cut the lead back down to single digits.
Geelong went into the fourth with a ten point lead and would eventually double that on the road to victory but not before a fantastic final quarter in which the Doggies threatened the champs from behind.
Roughead missed two set shots to begin the quarter and instead Hawkins recovered a dropped mark to break away from Lake and kick and goal. Motlop added another and suddenly the lead had opened up to 21 points, but three goals in three minutes saw the Bulldogs come to within three points, the best of which came from rainmaker by Skinner that kindly bounced through the sticks despite three players lurching in the square.
But it would be as close as the underdogs would come. Motlop ran into his second open goal of the quarter after hiding at the back of pack and picking off an unmarked ball before Hawkins set up Bartel with a clever punch into space for his running teammate. Two potential replies hit the post and Podsiadly sprinted into another open goal courtesy of Hawkins to put the finishing touch on much needed Geelong win.
“It was a hard-fought win tonight. We knew it would take four quarter and we were pretty lucky to get over the line in end,” said Johnson post match.
Johnson noted that the Cats weren’t entirely happy with the win, saying that the club still needs more work in the contested possession department and that they maybe relied on some individual performances from experienced players to get the win.