Geelong stays four points clear at the top of the AFL ladder following its 28-point victory over the Western Bulldogs, while Adelaide, Collingwood, Sydney and St Kilda all emerge as winners in round 20.
The Cats celebrated captain Joel Selwood’s 350th AFL match in style, as they recorded their 10th straight win.
After conceding the first four goals of Saturday night’s match, the slow-starting Cats sprung to life with a powerful 8.2 to 0.3 third quarter to continue their charge towards the minor premiership.
Geelong’s best quarter of the year turned an 11-point half-time deficit into a match-winning 36-point lead by three-quarter-time at Kardinia Park.
The Cats’ forward line clicked nicely as Tom Hawkins, Gary Rohan, Jeremy Cameron and Tyson Stengle slotted two goals each in the 14.10 (94) to 9.12 (66) triumph.
Chris Scott’s team took time to get going in Selwood’s milestone match but gathered momentum once they did in a performance sure to put fear in other premiership contenders.
The Cats flipped the Bulldogs’ early dominance around the stoppages, as Patrick Dangerfield and Cameron Guthrie enjoyed the ruckwork of big man Jon Ceglar in his Geelong debut.
Rohan was subbed out with concussion early in the final term and replaced by midfielder Brandan Parfitt, who came into the game after missing eight weeks with a hand injury.
The disappointing Bulldogs find themselves back out of the top eight after last week’s rousing upset of reigning premiers Melbourne.
Young forward Jamarra Ugle-Hagan showed no signs of fatigue after his breakout five-goal performance against the Demons, slotting two first-half majors in another promising display.
But with the Cats’ winning the inside-50 count 18-6 in the third term, the Bulldogs forwards were left shellshocked after their electric start.
One of the Bulldogs’ rare highlights was Josh Dunkley (two goal, 24 touches) bringing down a mark-of-the-year contender late in the final quarter.
Crows take down Blues
Carlton’s finals hopes hang in the balance after a disastrous defeat against Adelaide.
Instead of keeping pace with rival teams chasing a top-four finish, the Blues are now in a spot of bother trying to make the eight after losing against a Crows side with only pride at stake.
Carlton fell by 29 points at Adelaide Oval and remain seventh on the ladder but with their last three matches against Brisbane (fifth), Melbourne (second) and Collingwood (third), the Blues need to spring an upset to avoid falling out of the finals’ picture.
The hosts seemed in trouble early but kicked away with a powerful second quarter, pinching a 15-point break they would never relent in winning their sixth match for the season.
Every time the Blues threatened to find a way back, the Crows had an answer with Ben Keays the game’s most damaging forward with three majors.
But Darcy Fogarty was happy to fight him for that title, kicking two goals including a late special to seal his side’s win to go with a high-flying grab in the first term.
Even if the Blues can scrape into the eight, their patchy form will again have fans questioning just what impact they might have in the finals after going without consecutive wins since rounds nine and 10.
Carlton struggled across the ground and paid the price in front of goals, delivering their equal-lowest score of the season with 55 points.
Brodie Smith was everywhere for the Crows and constantly created their attacking forays off his half-back role, finishing with a dominant 37 disposals and 13 inside 50s.
Keays found 22 touches and four goal-assists to go with his majors, while Rory Laird was powerful as usual with 32 disposals.
Adelaide hit the front midway through the second term when Lachlan Murphy snapped truly to capitalise on his side’s midfield control and they extended the advantage through Taylor Walker and Keays to move 15 points clear.
They were only four points ahead at half-time but again struck through Ned McHenry and Keays, and snuffed any hope of a late fightback despite two last-term goals from Carlton forward Matt Cottrell.
Carlton skipper Patrick Cripps was influential in racking up 41 touches, while Sam Walsh was prolific with 40, but he certainly could have done more with that amount of ball.
Charlie Curnow kicked two majors early for the Blues but both were from the goalsquare and fellow power-forward Harry McKay was held to one goal as the duo well held by Adelaide’s backs.
Saints hold off Hawks
Injury-plagued veteran Dan Hannebery marked a successful AFL comeback with an important contribution in St Kilda’s nervous 12-point win over Hawthorn.
The Saints gave their finals hopes a boost, hanging on for a 10.15 (75) to 9.9 (63) triumph in an ugly affair at Docklands.
They led by more than 40 points midway through the third term and were almost made to pay for not putting the game to bed as Hawthorn threatened to pull off an upset with a five-goal surge in the final quarter.
The Hawks, who had managed just one goal up to midway through the third quarter, got back within 12 points with time remaining but fell short.
St Kilda captain Jack Steele (31 disposals, five clearances) and Brad Crouch (30, nine) led by example in the midfield and ruckman Rowan Marshall was influential as the Saints ultimately improved their season win-loss record to 11-8.
They have now won their last two matches but face a tough run home with fixtures against three of the top five teams — Geelong, Brisbane and Sydney — left to play in their fight for eighth spot.
Hannebery looks capable of playing a role at the business end of the season after a strong return in his first senior match of 2022.
The 31-year-old, who has been plagued by soft tissue injuries throughout his four years with St Kilda, spent most of the day on a wing and finished with 27 disposals, five clearances and a goal.
Max King’s wayward boot was the only thing that stood between him and a bag, finishing with 2.5, and Tim Membrey marked his 150th match with a booming goal from 50 metres.
There were few highlights in a scrappy opening and St Kilda took a six-point advantage to quarter-time after Hannebery scrubbed a left-footed goal that got a fortuitous bounce over a Hawthorn defender who was guarding the goal square.
The Hawks posted their lowest first-half score in more than two years — kicking 1.5 (11) from 23 inside-50s — and looked out of the contest when the Saints booted the opening three goals of the second half.
Jack Scrimshaw kicked two goals in the late fightback after being swung forward.
Pies continue winning run
Collingwood have extended their AFL winning streak despite living dangerously in staving off a late Port Adelaide push to win by six points at the MCG.
It was the Magpies’ 10th straight win — and the fifth in a row by seven points or less — as the home team fought hard and remained composed for the 13.10 (88) to 12.10 (82) triumph.
This was another victory full of fight and character, with Collingwood forced to activate medical sub Josh Carmichael at half-time to replace onballer Taylor Adams, ruled out by a groin injury.
And the interchange bench was further restricted in the frantic final 10 minutes with key defender Jeremy Howe sidelined with a thigh injury.
Port Adelaide, with the season on the line, threw everything at the Pies in the tense last quarter in a brave bid to snatch the vital win.
The Power seemed doomed when Magpie forward Jamie Elliott, last round’s after-siren hero, volleyed a superb goal early in the last term to stretch the lead to 23 points.
But the visitors, inspired by relentless running from Sam Powell-Pepper, kept coming.
And the Power reduced the margin to six points after Jase Burgoyne kicked a goal with 61 seconds left on the game clock.
Jordan De Goey had 23 disposals in the midfield and kicked two goals as he made his return for the Magpies after three weeks out with a thigh injury.
Swans thump Giants in Sydney derby
Sydney hammered GWS to continue its charge towards a top-four spot with a 73-point derby victory at the SCG.
The fast-starting Swans swept aside the lacklustre Giants with another blistering opening on home turf then cruised to a 17.10 (112) to 5.9 (39) triumph.
The Swans (13-6) were too slick for their cross-town rivals early then controlled the ball and territory with 416-301 disposals and 68-36 inside 50s, to secure their fourth consecutive win while hardly getting out of third gear.
Isaac Heeney helped spark the Swans with a mark of the year contender when he jumped onto the back of Lachie Whitfield and got a lift to soar higher then went back to slot the Swans’ opening goal.
The high-flying forward ended with 3.2 that could have been more damaging but for missing some simple shots on goal, while Tom Papley again looked sharp with two majors to go with 19 disposals and four clearances as part of his growing midfield role.
Sam Reid continued his resurgence with three goals for Sydney, while Sam Taylor was one of few Giants defenders to win their match-up although Lance Franklin booted three second-half goals that unusually included a snap off his right boot.
Young guns Errol Gulden (33 disposals, two goals) and James Rowbottom (23, one) shone brightly for the Swans with the ever-reliable Callum Mills (27, one) also dominant.
But it was Luke Parker (game-highs for 34 touches and six clearances) who claimed the Brett Kirk Medal awarded to the best afield in Sydney derbies played at the SCG, the fifth time he has earned the honour.