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Cats win a classic as Tuohy finds the target after final siren

Geelong’s Zac Tuohy is buried under a pile of delirious teammates after his goal gave the Cats’ a post-siren win over Melbourne. Photo: GETTY IMAGES

Cats win a classic as Tuohy finds the target after final siren

Rohan Connolly    

Comebacks of any description have been few and far between this season. Comebacks from five-goal deficits in final terms rarer. And eight-goal final terms to come back and win from 29 points in arrears with goals after the siren have in 2018 been the stuff of fantasy.

But that’s exactly what Geelong pulled off against Melbourne at GMHBA Stadium on Saturday night in a game for the ages, almost certainly the best game of football we’ve seen in this troubled season.

Whether it ends up turning the tide against far-reaching rule changes is debatable. But it could certainly prove pivotal to the seasons of both the Cats and the Demons.

Had Zac Tuohy not lived out every footballer’s dream after the final bell, Geelong could well be outside the eight by the end of the weekend. Melbourne, at least temporarily, would have been back in the top four. Now the Dees will be working hard simply to stay in the eight.

It was an incredible 25 minutes or so of football from the Cats. Tom Hawkins, on his 30th birthday, was an absolute colossus with four goals in the final quarter and seven for the game, equal his career best.

Gary Ablett, very subdued until three-quarter time, exploded in the final stanza with 14 disposals, the final one of those the handball in defence which launched the chain of possession which finished with Tuohy marking in front of goal with five seconds left on the clock.

Tim Kelly was similarly inspired with 10 last-term touches. Together, they gave Geelong a midfield impetus it had lacked with first Joel Selwood then Patrick Dangerfield well-held by the Demons’ James Harmes.

But really, it was still hard to believe what had unfolded. Particularly after Tom McDonald’s goal to start the final term had put Melbourne 29 points up, having controlled much of the game, if never having quite enough breathing space on the scoreboard until then.

Melbourne started well but failed to turn territorial advantage into scoreboard returns early on, Tom McDonald missing one shot and having a second touched on the line.

He did finally convert after his third big mark of a tight opening term, though, breaking a deadlock of sorts that lasted into time-on, Jeff Garlett’s opener for the Demons having been answered by Hawkins.

Geelong edged back within two points after Jamaine Jones ran into an open goal, the Cats having worked the ball the length of the ground, Dan Menzel having cleverly hooked the ball around his body into space for Jones to run on to.

That gave the Cats momentum going into the first break that they maintained at the beginning of the second quarter, too. Patrick Dangerfield put the Cats in front for the first time only a minute in after Brandon Parfitt won a free kick and dished off a handball to him outside 50.

Another 10 minutes elapsed before another major, but it when came it was through a piece of invention from Hawkins, Jones’s ball dribbling across the goal square before Hawkins thrust a toe at it in front of Oscar McDonald, Geelong now eight points up.

But from that point until half-time, it was the Demons who dominated, the Cats in some cases their own worst enemy.

Angus Brayshaw pulled one back after intercepting Mitch Duncan’s aimless little chip to the defensive 50-metre arc and running on to bomb one home.

Dangerfield briefly restored parity for the home side from a very “iffy” looking free kick. But Melbourne surged again. Charlie Spargo dribbling one through from a tight angle and Duncan again fluffing his lines for the Cats, this time dropping the ball as he attempted to balk, the Demons able to raffle the spills before McDonald casually booted his second.

Geelong then lifted a gear or two after half-time with three of the first five goals, the lead changing six times in that period, a first-ever goal to Jack Henry, playing an unaccustomed forward role, giving the Cats the edge once more.

But the Demons owned the rest of the term, Clayton Oliver outstanding, old hands Jordan Lewis and Nathan Jones composed. And finally, they started to edge away.

Goals to Jake Melksham, Jesse Hogan, Max Gawn and Garlett gave the Dees no less than they deserved, a 23-point lead at the last change. Gawn was huge in that third term as Melbourne’s pressure went up a cog, the Demons almost trebling Geelong’s tackle count for the quarter.

McDonald’s third goal two minutes into the last seemed to settle it once and for all, Melbourne set for only its third win at the Cattery in nearly 30 years. Even replies from Hawkins and Joel Selwood were met with only muted enthusiasm from the home crowd. The margin was now back to only 20 points with still 14 minutes to play, but somehow it felt longer.

Fortunately for the Cat fans, not to their players. Instead, those goals were just the beginning.

Tuohy, like Henry, had been thrown forward. His snap after a clever handball from Hawkins made it three goals in six minutes and a gap now reduced to just 14 points.

Only 90 seconds after that, Hawkins got on a lead, marked and booted his fifth. Less than two minutes later, after another Kelly entry, he did it again. Suddenly, it was back to two points the difference, Geelong having kicked five goals in five minutes.

Melksham’s response for the Demons was crucial, and offered some breathing space. But Melbourne now began to lack a little coolness in the crunch. Brayshaw, otherwise solid for the Dees, knocked a ball near the Geelong goal into Kelly’s path. He promptly dobbed a reply.

McDonald’s strong mark between two Cat defenders and his fourth goal with five minutes left might have been the clincher. Again, though, the Dees couldn’t seal the deal. And another snap from Hawkins, his fourth goal of the quarter, brought it back to two points once more.

The finish was frenetic, Sam Menegola’s snap for a point was overturned, the margin still two points with just over three minutes left. At the other end, Jay Kennedy-Harris snapped wide, three points the margin now with two minutes 15 seconds left. A rushed behind with 41 seconds to go made it four.

Perhaps the moment the Dees might end up rueing most came from the resultant kick-in. Lachie Henderson’s bomb made it just past the 50 metre line, where two Demons, Melksham and Bernie Vince, could have raffled the mark, taken 30 seconds off the clock, and ended it once and for all.

Instead, Vince chose to smash the ball forward. A scramble 30 metres from goal ensued. Rhys Stanley extracted the ball and dished off to Ablett, who slipped a handball out to Tom Stewart. He found an unmarked Menzel on the wing. The Cat forward headed inboard to Hawkins, who fed off another handball to the running Duncan, who found Tuohy.

Even the Irishman’s post-siren shot wasn’t straight forward, drifting to the right but sliding just inside the goal post. Cue pandemonium among the Cats, devastation for the Dees.

Melbourne finished with 14 more forward entries, won the tackle count decisively, and registered 28 scores to 20. Geelong’s 16.4 might not only be one of the most accurate scorelines we’ve seen for a while, but one of the most timely.

And speaking of timely, so was this magnificent contest if you’re of the view that the game’s rules don’t need any more tinkering with.

Those worried about the proposed changes might ably articulate their arguments. But perhaps more effective would be playing this superb four quarters of entertainment on a loop. Because nothing could have made this game any better than it was.

GEELONG 2.1 5.3 8.4 16.14 (100)
MELBOURNE 2.3 5.8 11.9 14.14 (98)

GOALS – Geelong: Hawkins 7, Dangerfield 2, Jones, Duncan, Henry, J Selwood, Tuohy, Kelly, Melbourne: T McDonald 4, Garlett 2, Melksham 2, Brayshaw, Spargo, Jones, Hogan, Gawn.

BEST – Geelong: Hawkins, Kelly, Dangerfield, Ablett, Stewart, Blicavs, Stanley. Melbourne: Oliver, T McDonald, Harmes, Lewis, Jones, Petracca, Brayshaw.

UMPRIES: Rosebury, Brown, Nicholls

CROWD: 30,125 at GMHBA Stadium

1 Comment
  1. The surprising emergence of Rhys Stanley as a competent ruckman continues.

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