Vintage Gazza, superb defending lead Cats past Lions and into the grand final

Two last-quarter goals from Kane Lambert – one a fluke and one a ripper – have seen the Tigers down minor premiers Port Adelaide by six points and powered Richmond to their third grand final in four years.

The Cats had the better of things in the first quarter, with a look at the stat sheet suggesting we were in for a repeat of their semi-final demolition of Collingwood. At the first break, the visitors had huge leads in inside 50s (+10), clearances (+11) and contested possessions (+18), but could only manage a five-point lead for their efforts.

It was Charlie Cameron who got the scoreboard ticking first, with a great set shot conversion from just inside 50, with Brandan Parfitt and Tom Hawkins (the latter from another great set shot) giving Geelong the lead. But Brisbane’s resolute back six refused to crack under pressure, before Cameron got Brisbane’s second with an excellent chase and tackle on Jack Henry resulting in a set shot goal.

Geelong looked ominous in the early going in the second quarter too, with Hawkins nailing his second and Gary Rohan slotting one for the highlight reel to extend their lead. But Brisbane clawed their way back, with goals to Eric Hipwood and Lachie Neale ensuring the margin at half time would stay at five points.

Crucially, the home side turned it around in many of the statistical areas they’d been smashed in up to that point. They lost the inside 50 count by one, but got on top in clearances (+7) and contested possessions (+11).

But it was Geelong who got back on top in the third quarter, threatening to strangle the life out of the Lions and run away with the game before the final break. Gary Ablett added two vintage majors alongside another to Jack Henry – compared to just one Brisbane goal through Cam Rayner – to extend the margin to 18 points at the final break.

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Shades of Brisbane’s failed 2019 finals campaign started to kick in, with Eric Hipwood missing a very gettable set shot to take the wind out of their sails. Ryan Lester would be guilty of the same offence in the fourth quarter, butchering a simple set shot after a 50-metre penalty to kill momentum – with Geelong going the other way and converting truly to really put the Lions on the back foot.

In the end, all the Cats needed to do was hold on in the fourth quarter, which they did. The Lions looked lethargic and weren’t able to muster much of a challenge, before some late junk-time goals extended the margin to a slightly generous 40 points.

It was the usual suspects getting the job done for Geelong, with Mitch Duncan collecting 22 disposals and nine score involvements, Joel Selwood and Brandan Parfitt combining for 16 tackles, Sam Menegola chipping in with 19 touches and ten score involvements and Tom Hawkins proving a handful. They key forward finished with just 2.3, but was unstoppable up forward in the ruck and had an equal team-high three tackles inside 50.

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Brisbane were led admirably by Lachie Neale (24 disposals, eight clearances) and got a good cameo out of Lincoln McCarthy (14 disposals, eight tackles), but had too many passengers. Eleven players finished with fewer than ten disposals, with Jarrod Berry (eight) and Cam Rayner (six) among the most disappointing inclusions on that list. Eric Hipwood had just five touches and one goal, Charlie Cameron finished with just five touches and was unsighted after half time, while Daniel McStay only touched it three times.

The Cats will now play Richmond in the grand final on Saturday, October 24 at The Gabba.

Brisbane Lions – 2.0 | 4.3 | 5.5 | 6.6 (42)
Geelong Cats – 2.5 | 4.8 | 7.11 | 11.16 (82)

Goals
Lions: Cameron 2, Neale 2, Hipwood, Rayner
Cats: Rohan 3, Hawkins 2, Ablett 2, Parfitt, Henry, Miers, Tuohy

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