Cats clear on top as Lions cop lesson in the wet

Murray Wenzel |

Geelong teammates congratulate Brandan Parfitt (centre) on a goal against Brisbane at the Gabba.
Geelong teammates congratulate Brandan Parfitt (centre) on a goal against Brisbane at the Gabba.

Geelong have won the wrestle at a drenched Gabba to record their best season start in 11 years as the Brisbane Lions’ AFL woes deepened.

The Cats’ 9.9 (63) to 4.13 (37) win on Saturday came in relentless, heavy rain as the the visitors, slow out of the blocks, ended up dominant with five of the six second-half goals.

The grand finalists were unbeaten in 13 games at the Gabba for the entirety of last season.

Stengle scores
Tyson Stengle celebrates one of his two goals for the Cats against Brisbane at the Gabba. (Darren England/AAP PHOTOS)

But they are now 0-3 at the venue in this campaign, 2-4 overall with memories of last week’s inspired MCG defeat of Melbourne neutralised.

And they’re the owners of a new low-mark, their 37-point effort one less than the Lions’ previous worst score at the Gabba, set nine years ago against North Melbourne.

The Cats (6-0) are clear on top of the table in their best start since 2013, thanks to a wet-weather masterclass in the eyes of Lions coach Chris Fagan.

“Geelong played the conditions way smarter, we over-used the ball and missed good opportunities at the start,” he said.

The Lions kicked the first two goals but missed their chance to turn that dominance into a telling lead, hitting the post three times and managing just two majors after the 13-minute mark.

Jaspa Fletcher will be ruing his decision to play on after Callum Ah Chee had marked at the top of the goal square, striking the upright from point-blank range.

They then gave away three free kicks with poor discipline while chasing the game in the final quarter, the Cats with all the answers.

“I thought to myself it could come back to bite us, and it sort of did a little bit,” Fagan said of his side’s slow start.

“If it was 5.2 at quarter time (instead of 2.5) it’s probably nearly a match-winning lead on a night like tonight, and 5.2 was achievable.”

Both teams had to change plans at halftime, with Lions ruckman Oscar McInerney and Cats defender Tom Stewart both subbed out of the game with concussion from head knocks.

McInerney’s absence forced Joe Daniher into full-time stoppage duties, midfielder Josh Dunkley showing his versatility to pitch in.

Tyson Stengle (two goals) and Jack Bowes (20 disposals) looked comfortable in the wet, as did ever-present Lion Dayne Zorko (27 disposals, two goals), Jarrod Berry (29 disposals) and tough defender Noah Answerth (24 touches).

Geelong big men Jeremy Cameron and Tom Hawkins were held goalless for the first time in the 62 games they’ve played together, but the Cats won anyway.

The Lions had the top-six ball-winners but were unable to handle the Cats’ set-up, the visitors deploying an extra man in defence to stifle Brisbane’s approaches.

Irishman Mark O’Connor’s hard tag on Lachie Neale was aided by the rain, but he also managed to sneak forward and kick a rare goal of his own.

Brad Close then held his nerve with a set shot to create a match-high seven-point Geelong lead at the final break.

Harris Andrews then conceded a 50-metre penalty, arriving late and slowing Gryan Myers, who fumbled the ball.

Myers then booted the visitors clear in a crucial moment, the Cats kicking two more in quick time to put the result beyond doubt.

“I don’t think they’re going as badly as their record suggests and early in the game that was how it was playing out,” Cats coach and former Lions premiership star Chris Scott said.

“It was more of a Geelong night than a Brisbane night, weather-wise.”