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Geelong prevail after Blues threaten upset

Geelong were not only forced to battle hard to win the four points from Carlton but their hopes for 2018 dipped after ruckman/forward Esava Ratugolea suffered a broken leg.

The 19-year-old, who was playing just his eighth game, landed heavily on his right ankle and was taken to hospital with a broken tibia and fibula.

The injury occurred just as Carlton were wresting back control from the Cats who had burst out of the blocks with four goals before the Blues scored and looked ominous.

Esava Ratugolea (left) sustains his leg injury.

Photo: AAP

Those early goals not only proved the difference in the end with the final margin just 28 points but the first three goals ticked the obvious script writers boxes too.

The first came from Jamaine Jones on debut who snapped a goal with his first kick, Gary Ablett in his first game at the ground in Geelong colours since 2010 and then milestone man Jordan Murdoch joining in the party with a goal in his 100th game.

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At that point the Blues looked set for the second thrashing in quick succession but they were able to regroup, winning centre clearances and setting up well behind the ball, protecting the corridor and slowing Geelongs ball movement.

The Blues all joined in, taking the fizz out of the celebrations and counter attacking with the Ratugolea injury also flattening Geelong.

Gary Ablett in his return match at Geelong playing for the Cats.

Photo: AAP

At times Carltons ball movement was too quick for Geelong who were without veteran defender Harry Taylor, who Aaron Black replaced after Taylor withdrew late with a plantar fascia injury.

The game became ugly with the ball being locked in one end of the ground or the other and the game went without a goal from either team between the 16-minute mark of the first quarter when Carlton kicked their second goal and the 23-minute mark of the second quarter when Geelong kicked their fifth.

Only Carlton midfielder Patrick Cripps and Geelong defender Tom Stewart were rising above the mire with Cripps clearly the best midfielder on the ground despite the reputations surrounding him.
Cripps played a third quarter that was Anthony Koutoufides-like in its dominance, his 12 disposals including 10 contested possessions as he willed his teammates to cause a major upset.

He must mean as much to Carlton supporters at the moment as Allan Border used to mean to Australian cricket fans in the 1980s.

Only Stewart kept the Blues from breaking through, controlling the backline with his intercept marking and it took a brilliant goal from Patrick Kerr from the boundary to break a run of eight consecutive behinds from the Blues.

Carlton just kept coming, creating opportunities but they could not convert, missing several shots for goal when running into unguarded goals.

They were dominating territory and the Cats looked ordinary conceding, as has been their pattern this season, more inside 50s than their opponents.

For all the words written hailing the Cats midfield, the simple truth at the moment is that they look much better on paper than they are playing.

The Blues were not intimidated, happy to harass and niggle their much vaunted opponents and at times Cats players put their egos ahead of the teams needs giving away and reversing free kicks with undisciplined acts.

Only Jack Henry in his first season, Stewart and Mark Blicavs seemed to play the percentages while Carlton kept it simple and worried the life out of Geelong, moving to within nine points midway through the last quarter before Tom Hawkins stood tall to make sure the Cats won with Sam Menegolas last goal brilliant.

Carlton walked away from their first game at the venue for 21 years with their pride while Geelong remains in contention despite being nowhere near their best.


GEELONG
4.0 5.3 7.5 11.7 (73)
CARLTON 2.1 2.7 4.11 5.15 (45)
Goals: Geelong: T Hawkins 3 S Menegola 2 G Ablett J Cunico J Jones J Murdoch P Dangerfield S Crameri. Carlton: C Curnow D Cuningham H McKay M Wright P Kerr
Best: Geelong: Stewart, Henry, Blicavs, Duncan, Dangerfield. Carlton: Cripps, Simpson, Ed Curnow, Fisher
Umpires: Jacob Mollison, Nicholas Foot, Eleni Glouftsis
Official Crowd: 31,090 at GMHBA Stadium

Votes:
9: Patrick Cripps (Carlton)
8: Tom Stewart (Geelong)
7: Jack Henry (Geelong)
7: Kade Simpson (Geelong)
7: Patrick Dangerfield (Geelong)

Peter Ryan

Peter Ryan joined The Age in 2017 having covered AFL as a senior reporter with AFL Media.

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