Geelong produced an irresistible final-quarter surge to ensure favourite son Jimmy Bartel would celebrate his 250th AFL game in style with a 38-point win over Adelaide on Thursday night.
The Crows hit the front by a single point when Patrick Dangerfield booted the first goal of the final term and it seemed another round-one upset might be in the offing.
But that only spurred the home team on to greater heights, the Cats kicking the last six goals of the match to win 18.11 (119) to 12.9 (81) in an entertaining clash at Simonds Stadium.
Captain Joel Selwood and Steve Johnson – among five other members of the line-up to have played in each of the 2007, 2009 and 2011 flag-winning teams alongside Bartel – were instrumental in the final-quarter demolition job.
But it was Bartel who iced the win with his game-high fourth goal of the night at the 22-minute mark, to the delight of the 23,622-strong crowd.
The first half was a mostly freewheeling affair.
The Cats got the lead beyond 20 points during both of the first two quarters, but on each occasion the Crows had the better of the concluding minutes.
The feel-good moment of the night came when injury-plagued ruckman Hamish McIntosh – playing his first senior game in almost two years and his first since crossing from North Melbourne – slotted a long-range goal.
But the best goal of the first quarter was kicked at the other end by Adelaide excitement machine Dangerfield, who split the big sticks running at full tilt and hard up against the boundary line.
Milestone man Bartel was the star of the second term, kicking three majors and being denied a fourth after a score review correctly ascertained that his dribbling effort had been touched by Adelaide fullback Ben Rutten.
But two late goals to Lewis Johnston – who had been reported minutes earlier for high contact on Johnson – narrowed the Cats’ lead to 10 points at the long break.
After a free-flowing first half, the scoring dried up in the third term.
Geelong’s only goal came from Mathew Stokes, with Adelaide replying through Johnston and Matthew Jaensch as the home side held a slender five-point lead at the final change.
Dangerfield’s second goal of the night early in the final term gave the visitors hope, but that was quickly snuffed out as Geelong regularly caught the Crows flat-footed on the rebound.
“We’ve knocked over what we think is good opposition on our home ground in round one,” said Geelong coach Chris Scott.
“But it’s not that big an advantage.
“We’ve got 21 really hard games in front of us and you might scoff when we say that, but the first week of round one kind of proved a point a little bit.
“Even the teams who are being picked to finish bottom three – if you are off against them, you will get beaten.”
Crows coach Brenton Sanderson was “gutted” at the way his players fell away in the last quarter when the game was on the line.
“Geelong got away to a really good start and they finished the game a lot better than us,” he said.
“The last-quarter statistics and the way we played was just really poor in the fourth quarter so the players are aware of that.
“The numbers aren’t pretty – minus 17 contested ball in the last quarter.”
GEELONG 6.0 11.3 12.7 18.11 (119)
ADELAIDE 5.3 9.5 11.8 12.9 (81)
Goals: Geelong: J Bartel 4 M Brown 3 J Selwood 2 C Enright D Simpson H McIntosh J Caddy J Murdoch M Duncan M Stokes S Johnson T Hawkins. Adelaide: L Johnston 3 E Betts 2 P Dangerfield 2 B Smith M Grigg M Jaensch S Jacobs S McKernan.
Umpires: Matt Stevic, Shane Stewart, Matthew Leppard.
Official Crowd: 23,622 at Simonds Stadium.
Injuries: Geelong: J Caddy (cut face) G Horlin-Smith replaced in selected side by D Simpson. Adelaide: Nil.
Reports: Geelong: Nil. Adelaide: L Johnston (Adelaide) for high contact on S Johnson (Geelong) in the second quarter.
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