The Geelong Cats moved into the top four after doing enough in blustery conditions to beat the West Coast Eagles at Optus Stadium. The Cats have had a heavy couple of weeks on the training track, as they build their strength for the end of the season. They looked lethargic for much of the game but won critical balls when challenged to keep a determined West Coast Eagles under control. The Eagles were strengthened by a number of stars returning from injury and will be pleased with their improved performance against a strong team.
The early signs for the Cats looked good as Tyson Stengle burnt off a pack of chasing Eagles to handball to Brad Close, who goaled without much pressure. However, the Eagles were a different team to the one that played the first half of the season. They contested the ball with a new found hardness and with their more-experienced players tasting leather, ball movement became purposeful. Reward came after eight minutes when Willie Rioli received a free kick and goaled. The Cats played Jeremy Cameron away from the goals to draw the Eagles intercept marker (catcher), Jeremy McGovern, out of the play. The Cats' full forward Tom Hawkins appreciated the space to move, but was closely shadowed by the Eagles' fullback Tom Barrass. With Cameron and Hawkins not scoring, the Cats placed greater reliance on their small forwards. Tyson Stengle slipped in for an early goal after an excellent kick from Cameron on the boundary. Then Sam Menegola sharked a loose ball to snap the Cats' third major.
The Eagles launched several attacks, only to score behinds (worth a point each), before Jake Waterman received a handpass and dribbled the ball through for the Eagles' second major. The Cats won more of the early clearances with Rhys Stanley beating the Eagles' Bailey Williams in the ruck. A mark and goal by Tom Hawkins at the end of the quarter eased the pressure on the visitors and the Cats seemed satisfied with their work.
The second quarter began with Stengle and Cameron both booting majors to have the Cats purring, despite the pressure from the Eagles in the midfield. About halfway through the term, Williams got on top in the ruck and Jack Redden and Luke Shuey won clearances for the Eagles. McGovern injured his ribs trying to bump Cameron and left the field but this didn't dampen the Eagles' spirit. Goals to Josh Kennedy, Waterman and Jamie Cripps resulted from the quick ball movement into attack which allowed the Eagles to wrestle the momentum from the Cats. Shannon Hurn and Liam Duggan were composed when kicking from defense and Jarmaine Jones used pace to cut through the midfield. The direct style of attack by the Eagles surprised the Cats and when Jack Petruccelle spun in traffic to goal, the Eagles were definitely back in the game. A behind kicked by Waterman evened the scores just before half-time.
The Cats responded strongly after the main break. Stanley rediscovered his mojo in the ruck, supported by Mark Blicavs, and Joel Selwood, Tom Atkins and Cameron Guthrie pushed the ball into attack. Guthrie was effective around the ground with his dash and ability to pressure the Eagles with his tackling. Tyson Stengle stepped up the sparkle when in the midfield and gave Geelong plenty of drive. Goals to Isaac Smith, Mitch Duncan and Tom Hawkins in the first half of the quarter set up the Cats' victory. Hawkins' goal brought up his seven hundredth career goal. Fittingly Josh Kennedy, who has kicked over 700 goals, momentarily stopped the Cats' run with a major of his own. However, a Stengle goal from a difficult angle and a clever Cameron inbound-pass from the boundary to Menegola, who marked and goaled, put the Cats four goals up. A late goal to Eagles' forward Jamie Cripps gave the home crowd some hope.
The final quarter became a battle of the defenses. Players on both teams struggled to find space. Many of the Eagles' returning players grew leg-weary through lack of match fitness. The Cats had heavy legs from their mid-season training load and struggled to run the match out. Both teams only added a goal each. The Eagles could not bridge the three-goal margin and the Cats were unable to put the Eagles away. Geelong fans can expect to see a more lively bunch of Cats in their next match, against the Richmond Tigers at the MCG. The revived Eagles will be better for the run and can be expected to throw a strong challenge to the Essendon Bombers at Optus Stadium next week.
Scores West Coast Eagles: 2.3 6.5 8.6 9.9 (63) Geelong Cats: 4.4 6.5 11.6 12.9 (81) Best West Coast Eagles: Redden, Yeo, Duggan, Gaff, Barrass Geelong Cats: C Guthrie, Atkins, Stengle, J Selwood, Blicavs
Article last changed on Monday, June 20, 2022 - 4:14 PM EDT