abc– Geelong has responded to its shock round one loss by holding on for a thrilling one-point win against the Brisbane Lions on a night of high drama at Kardinia Park.
The Cats were heading for a comfortable victory before the Lions rallied to pinch the lead for the first time since the opening stages at the 21-minute mark of the last quarter after they entered the term trailing by 21 points.
But former Hawthorn champion Isaac Smith came to the fore with three minutes remaining, with the veteran recruit snapping the match-winning goal.
The Patrick Dangerfield-less Cats thwarted Brisbane’s late attempts, which included two rushed behinds, to reclaim the lead before they hung on to win 12.9 (81) to 11.14 (80).
A coronavirus scare hung over Friday night’s game as Victorian government health advice declared the Brisbane and Moreton Bay areas hotspots less than an hour before the opening bounce
Wayne Carey and former Lions champion Luke Hodge had to leave commentary duties mid-match due to the new advice along with some fans, but the AFL declared the Lions safe to play.
Geelong forward Gary Rohan is almost certain to be cited for striking Lions star Lachie Neale behind play in the first quarter.
Neale appeared to be collected high and stayed down for up to 30 seconds.
A 50-metre penalty was paid against Cats skipper Joel Selwood for a dangerous tackle on Lions youngster Tom Berry, but the incident is unlikely to attract scrutiny from the match review officer.
Tensions boiled over further at quarter-time when Cats coach Chris Scott had strong words with some Brisbane players, including Joe Daniher and Harris Andrews.
The match opened with surprise debutant Francis Evans converting the first kick of his career into a goal to have the Cats crowd roaring.
Selwood, Zach Tuohy, and All-Australians Tom Hawkins (three goals) and Cameron Guthrie (28 possessions) were vital for the Cats as they put the loss to wooden spooners Adelaide last week behind them.
A sore Neale endured one of the quietest games of his illustrious career before lifting with a big final term.
Lions ruckman Oscar McInerney was injured early, but stayed on the ground until being subbed out for the speedy Keidean Coleman in the final quarter.
Eric Hipwood was dangerous up forward with four goals, but sprayed some golden opportunities for the Lions.
Geelong have a 10-day wait before battling Hawthorn at the MCG, while the Lions are due to host Collingwood at the Gabba on Easter Thursday.