The GIANTS have roared back from a 20-point deficit early in the fourth quarter to snatch a share of the points against a gallant but undermanned Geelong at Spotless Stadium in the first drawn AFL match since 2015.
Cats forward Tom Hawkins had the chance to win the game after the siren, but his set shot from 30m from a fairly tight angle earned only a behind, which levelled the scores at 10.8 (68) apiece.
Geelong deserved no less than a share of the spoils, however, having overcome the absence of Joel Selwood, who was concussed last round, and Daniel Menzel - who suffered a knee injury in the warm-up - to set the standard for most of the night until they finally ran out of legs against the relentless GIANTS.
A Patrick Dangerfield goal and rushed behind gave the visitors a 67-47 lead in the eighth minute of the last period. However, a 21-point unanswered run, including a fourth goal of the match to star forward Jonathon Patton, put the GIANTS on top 68-67 in the 27th minute. The Cats launched several late raids but it appeared the decisive blow would elude them until Hawkins took a contested mark on the stroke of full-time.
"I suspect that Tom’s really disappointed he didn’t knock the goal over from an acute angle. But hopefully when the dust settles a little bit he will be proud that he was the man in the arena at the end when it really counted, and he should be proud of his teammates as well, especially the young ones," Cats coach Chris Scott said.
"I was just excited we got the chance. Obviously the draw’s better than the loss. So having the opportunity to at least get the two points was exciting. But it was a really tough shot, so I don’t know there would be a player on the ground that would have gone back and thought ‘This is a lay down misere', especially with that pressure."
Geelong can hang their hat on the result, as they were sporting three debutants, including teenagers Sam Simpson, Zach Guthrie and young forward Wylie Buzza. Each played a critical role, along with journeyman Sam Menegola, who had 33 possessions and a goal, bettered only by Dangerfield’s 45 disposals.
For GIANTS, livewire Toby Greene was a late omission due to an ankle complaint, adding to the absence of rebounding defender Zac Williams. However, the home side was significantly bolstered by the return of small forward Devon Smith, ruckman Rory Lobb and dynamic midfielder Josh Kelly.
For all their pace, however, the GIANTS couldn’t halt a series of sweeping quick-fire counter-attacks from the Cats in the first half, including all three of the visitors’ first-quarter goals.
Their three majors in the second term, two of which were textbook set shots from distance by first-gamer Buzza and, shortly afterwards, Jordan Murdoch, were the product of Geelong’s impeccably organised defensive structure, which frustrated the GIANTS and forced them wide.
For the GIANTS, Patton scored three first-half goals, including the 100th of his career. Steve Johnson was heavily involved, as always, scuffling with Dangerfield at the start of the second quarter, just before the veteran ex-Cat won a free kick and scored from the boundary.
The loss of their one debutant for the match, Jeremy Finlayson, to a knee injury in the second quarter added to the GIANTS’ challenge, but a higher tempo in the third term opened the door for a comeback.
The GIANTS scored the first seven points after half-time but the Cats readjusted, pressuring the GIANTS' spread and counter-punching with three unanswered goals to secure a 19-point lead, before Jeremy Cameron scored his first major for the night on the stroke of three-quarter time.
Seven points to begin the final quarter sent Geelong back out to a handy lead, but the GIANTS turned up the heat to storm back into contention.
"I suppose it's two points. They were the better team," a bitterly disappointed GIANTS coach Leon Cameron said.
"They had three first-gamers in the team, off a six-day break, and their effort was better than ours.
"It's frustrating ... they just played the conditions so much better."
GIANTS: Sam Reid left the ground in the 12th minute of the game with a knee injury but returned to play out the game. Debutant Jeremy Finlayson was out of the game midway through the second quarter after twisting his left knee in a tackle. Steve Johnson collided heavily with teammate Jeremy Cameron late in the opening quarter but both players continued on.
Geelong: Sam Menegola left the ground late nearing half-time but returned to the action.
The GIANTS play the Hawks at the University of Tasmania Stadium before what should be a cracking Sydney derby the following week. The Cats head straight to Queensland for the week ahead of their game against the Brisbane Lions.
GIANTS 3.1 5.3 7.5 10.8 (68)
GEELONG 3.1 6.5 9.6 10.8 (68)
GIANTS: Patton 4, Wilson, Johnson, Ward, Cameron, Lobb, Whitfield
Geelong: Buzza 2, Hawkins, Parsons, Blicavs, Black, Murdoch, Menegola, Stanley, Dangerfield
GIANTS: Whitfield, Patton, Ward, Wilson, Kelly, Haynes
Geelong: Dangerfield, Menegola, Duncan, C.Guthrie, Taylor, Tuohy
GIANTS: Toby Greene (ankle) replaced in the selected side by Daniel Lloyd, Jeremy Finlayson (knee)
Geelong: Daniel Menzel (knee) replaced in selected side by Wylie Buzza
Umpires: Chamberlain, Meredith, Fleer
Official crowd: 15,007 at Spotless Stadium