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Cats strangle Kangaroos to maintain top spot

Midway through the third quarter Narkle swooped on a ground ball laid at his feet by an errant Gryan Miers handball, broke through a tackle and kicked a snap goal to break the rope North Melbourne was holding to stay in the game. He then finished the game with an inspiring snap to top off his night.

It was fitting that Miers was involved in the defining play too, because the two youngsters gave the Cats some spark near goals – Miers slotted three goals in the first three quarters using his instinct to make something out of nothing.

North Melbourne made sure the result did not get too ugly, parking numbers deep and defending grimly.  However, they couldn’t score with Geelong setting up behind the ball to stifle every forward move the Kangaroos made, which restricted them to a measly three behinds in the second half.

The most dramatic move of the game from the perspective of what lies ahead came when Geelong decided to leave Zac Smith out of the team because of the conditions preferring Mark Blicavs in the ruck and pushing Lachie Henderson deep in defence.

Henderson played well early taking intercept marks while Tom Stewart was occupied helping out Harry Taylor to double team North Melbourne forward Ben Brown who went goalless.

At the other end the Kangaroos were content to push Tom Hawkins high allowing him to mark outside the forward 50, holding their numbers deep to stop the Cats from taking marks close to goal.

It was effective early with only two marks taken inside 50 in the first quarter (both to Geelong) before the Cats reset with even numbers ahead of the ball and began to find Hawkins inside 50.

Goldstein kicked North Melbourne’s first (and only goal) early in the second quarter but from that point on it was all Geelong who can cement top spot with a win at the Gabba next week against the Brisbane Lions.

GEELONG RUCK CONUNDRUM

It has been the Cats’ Achilles heel since Brad Ottens retired at the end of 2011 with a cavalcade of players auditioning for the role. Rhys Stanley and Zac Smith both had their turn this season but finally the Cats bit the bullet and dragged two-time best and fairest Mark Blicavs out of defence and into the ruck.

It was worth a try because it helped them with their ball movement, but it remains to be seen whether they can leave Harry Taylor and Lachie Henderson in the key defensive post in finals. Blicavs ended the game with 13 disposals

NOT A RECORD SHAW WANTS TO CLAIM

Less than a fortnight after being appointed as senior coach Rhyce Shaw has experienced the lows of being in the hot seat with his team kicking the lowest score in North Melbourne’s history.

Admittedly they missed opportunities to kick a higher score, but they did not look like kicking a goal in the second half as the Cats outnumbered them behind the ball and the Kangaroos had no answer.

GEELONG 1.3 3.9 6.13 9.15 (69) NORTH MELBOURNE 0.2 1.5 1.8 1.8 (14)
GOALS Geelong: Miers 3, Hawkins 2, Narkle 2, Dahlhaus, Dangerfield North Melbourne: Goldstein
BEST Geelong: Narkle, Miers, Dangerfield, Kelly, Henderson, Stewart, Hawkins, Selwood North Melbourne: Thompson, Cunnington, Ziebell, Pittard
INJURIES Geelong: Nil North Melbourne: Thompson (concussion)
Reports: Nil
Umpires: Haussen, Stevic, Chamberlain
Official crowd: 21,664 at GMHBA Stadium

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