Geelong has scraped its way back onto the AFL winners’ list, holding off a gutsy North Melbourne for an unconvincing 30-point win at Kardinia Park.
In other results on Sunday, Melbourne beat Hawthorn to maintain its perfect start to the season and Fremantle get home against Adelaide.
In Geelong, the Cats overcame a sluggish start and their own poor finishing to prevail 10.17 (77) to 7.5 (47) but will sweat on the match review officer’s assessment of an incident involving Mitch Duncan.
Duncan was attempting to smother Aaron Hall’s long-range shot on goal in the second quarter when he leapt and turned his back, collecting the Kangaroo high in the process.
Hall had to be helped off the ground by trainers and was substituted out of the game for Curtis Taylor.
Meanwhile, star midfielder Patrick Dangerfield suffered an ankle injury when he copped a heavy knock from Kyron Hayden as he assisted Gary Rohan for a goal in the third quarter.
Dangerfield later limped off in the final term and went down to the Cats’ rooms.
The Kangaroos were the AFL’s only winless team heading into Sunday’s match. They were well down on personnel but they stunned Geelong with their early dare and dash to snare a 10-point lead at the first change.
Ben Cunnington (29 disposals) drove the Kangaroos through the midfield, while Jack Ziebell (38 disposals) and Aiden Bonar were excellent behind the ball and Kayne Turner limited Joel Selwood’s influence.
In contrast, the Cats were uncharacteristically sloppy and error-strewn, particularly heading inside 50.
Ever-reliable defender Tom Stewart (30 disposals, 10 marks) was excellent, with Brandan Parfitt, Sam Menegola and Duncan busy through the midfield, while Cats debutant Sam De Koning showed some exciting glimpses.
North Melbourne drew first blood through a booming kick from Hall and Tarryn Thomas added another when he hauled down a contested mark to leave the Cats on the back foot early.
Despite their slow start, the Cats started to take control of the match after quarter-time, sparked by Zach Tuohy’s tremendous running goal in the second term.
The Cats’ wastefulness helped keep the Kangaroos within touching distance at the main break before two third-quarter goals to Menegola helped them put the visitors at arm’s length.
Jaidyn Stephenson’s long bomb kept the Kangaroos in the contest at the final change but ultimately the Cats kicked away for a more flattering final margin.
Demons down Hawks for 5-0 start
Melbourne steamrolled Hawthorn in the last quarter for a 50-point win and its first 5-0 start to a season in 17 years.
Captain Max Gawn was imperious in the ruck as the Demons fended off a game challenge from the Hawks for a 15.14 (104) to 8.6 (54) at the MCG.
The Demons made a preliminary final off the back of their 5-0 start in 1994 and they have a massive clash next Saturday night in the Anzac Day eve contest against reigning premiers Richmond at the MCG.
Gawn had 24 hitouts and 10 marks, as well as a crucial goal in the last term.
Dylan Moore snapped truly in the opening minute of the final quarter term and the Hawks were only four points down.
Hawthorn key forward Tim O’Brien then had a two-on-one marking opportunity in a dangerous spot, but a late spoil from Jake Lever put him off.
It proved a sliding doors moment.
A few minutes later, Gawn marked at 40 metres out on an angle.
Goalkicking has never been Gawn’s forte — he had missed two shots earlier in the game — but the Demons star kicked a booming major.
It sparked a seven-goal run that buried the Hawks, turning a tight contest into a walkover.
Christian Salem, Ed Langdon (three goals) and Tom McDonald (two goals) also impressed for the Demons, with Jaeger O’Meara and Tom Mitchell Hawthorn’s best.
The Hawks opened with more poise and punished Melbourne for sloppy ball use.
After five lead changes, Hawthorn had a 10-point break at the first change.
The Demons kicked two goals to one in the second term to trail by two points at the main break, with former Melbourne defender Sam Frost tangling with a couple of ex-teammates late in the quarter.
It was the first time Hawthorn had led at half-time this season.
But a strong tackle gave Christian Petracca a free kick and his goal six minutes into the third quarter gave the Demons the lead for the first time since the opening term.
They clung onto the lead until their last-quarter goals avalanche.
Taberner kicks four as Dockers beat Crows
Fremantle spearhead Matt Taberner booted four goals in the Dockers’ plucky 12-point away win against Adelaide.
Despite losing key onballer Adam Cerra to an ankle injury, the Dockers prevailed 12.12 (84) to 11.6 (72) at Adelaide Oval.
Fremantle stormed to victory with a late burst.
After slipping four points down 11 minutes into the last term, they kicked four consecutive goals in an eight-minute spree.
The Dockers’ third win of the season lifts them into eighth spot on the ladder, one rung lower than the Crows.
While Taberner was a constant threat in attack, Dockers onballer Angus Brayshaw was a standout with 33 disposals including seven clearances.
His esteemed midfield mates David Mundy (28 disposals) and Nat Fyfe (23 disposals) were influential, Luke Ryan (24 disposals, 10 marks) was brilliant in defence and Travis Colyer and Lachie Schultz kicked two goals each.
Adelaide defenders Brodie Smith (27 disposals) and Tom Doedee (22 disposals) were superb, while Ben Keays (31 disposals), Rory Laird (29 disposals, seven clearances) and wingers Paul Seedsman (28 disposals) and Lachlan Sholl (23 disposals) were prolific ball winners.
Key forward Taylor Walker and Jimmy Rowe both slotted two goals.
After scores were locked at 2.1 apiece at quarter-time, Fremantle hit the front early in the second term when Michael Frederick goaled on the run.
But the Crows booted three goals in the last 10 minutes — coinciding with the ankle injury to Fremantle’s Cerra — to take a 10-point half-time lead, 5.5 to 3.5.
The gallant Dockers hit back in the third quarter, controlling field play and capitalising with five goals to three.
Spearhead Taberner scored two majors for the term but every time Fremantle snuck a goal ahead, Adelaide struck against the run of play.
First-year Crow Rowe threaded a clever checkside to leave the hosts just one point down at three-quarter time.
After a tense, goalless opening 10 minutes of the last stanza, Walker broke the deadlock to put his side four points ahead.
But Dockers stalwart Mundy soon responded with an accurate snap in heavy traffic, his striking triggering a match-winning four-goal spree in eight minutes.