Milestone man Hawkins fires Cats past Swans
The Swans saw their early hopes of a major upset fade as ladder leaders Geelong fought back to secure a priceless triumph on a special afternoon for milestone man Tom Hawkins.
In his 250th game, Hawkins kicked five goals as the Cats restored their lead at the top with a 16.11 (107) to 12.8 (80) victory in front of 32,911 fans.
Wins on Saturday for Brisbane and West Coast had seen them draw level with Geelong and the visitors badly needed to deliver a response after mixed form of late.
John Longmire's men started brightly and led at the end of the first, but the visitors fought back and were level at the main break. The ladder leaders pulled ahead and the Swans could not find an effective response.
Ahead of the clash, John Longmire said it was crucial to take your chances when facing the best team in the comp while co-captain Josh Kennedy warned it was a big test for the home side as the visitors boasted class all over the park.
And when push came to shove, the Cats just had too much for their hosts.
Hawkins, Tim Kelly, Joel Selwood and Mitch Duncan all shone for the visiting side.
Jordan Dawson, Isaac Heeney and Ben Ronke hit the scoreboard for the home side with Josh Kennedy (28) and Luke Parker (29) leading the way for disposals. But it simply wasn't enough.
OLLIE'S PAIN, BEN'S GAIN
The home side suffered a pre-match blow with Ollie Florent ruled out with a hip flexor problem and that opened the door to Ronke. He wasted no time in seizing his chance as he crashed over the Swans first goal in the seventh minute. It was an opening quarter that also delivered an acrobatic six-pointer from Jordan Dawson with Tom Papley added a third.
The Cats' Tom Hawkins was celebrating his 250th game and he opened his account for the afternoon with an impressive effort from distance but it was the Swans who went into the second quarter with their noses in front.
HAWKINS ON FIRE
The visitors started the second quarter in impressive fashion, two quick goals from Esava Ratugolea and Patrick Dangerfield bringing Geelong level. Then a real seesaw battle for the advantage. Josh Kennedy swiftly restored the lead for the Swans only for Hawkins to reply. Heeney responded and suddenly all level at 34 points apiece. Ronke made no mistake and the lead was back out to six.
"They've used all the options, they haven't just bombed to (the absent) Buddy," Wayne Carey said of the Swans use of their forwards on Triple M commentary.
The Swans were proving effective in keeping Gary Ablett very quiet, the Geelong man with only a couple of disposals as the main break approached. But keeping Hawkins quiet was not so easy and the milestone man soon had three from distance to level it up again.
Kelly led the way for the visitors with 16 disposals in the opening half, Dangerfield (13), Joel Selwood (12) just behind.
Jake Lloyd and Zak Jones (15 and 14 respectively) were best for the Swans with the former also gaining 365 metres in the opening half.
The Swans also enjoyed the advantage in inside 50s (26 to 21).
CATS TAKE CONTROL
Hawkins collected his fourth of the afternoon as the third quarter began. Ronke appeared to clip the inside of the post when it looked easier to roll the ball through and a big chance was spurned as Geelong kept their noses in front. The Swans were struggling to make any impression on the scoreboard as the third period progressed.
In contrast, the Cats converted when it mattered, Dangerfield and Mitch Duncan pouncing to kick the visitors out to a 27-point lead in a dominant quarter for the Cats.
Dawson's effort at the start of the fourth was reviewed and was duly given after umpire's call. Gap back to 16 points. Not for long. Bang. Number five for Hawkins. Then Dangerfield pounced and it was out to 29 points and goodnight. Heeney refused to give up though, bagging a late double. But the Cats roared home to hit the 100 goal mark and finish in style.