Another Cats-Saints nailbiter - Sports News - Fanatics - the world's biggest events

Another Cats-Saints nailbiter

By John Salvado 03/09/2010 10:47:02 PM Comments (0)

It should have come as no surprise that Friday night's opening to the 2010 AFL finals almost as gripping as last year's grand final.

Similar wet weather - at least in the second half. Same teams at the same venue. And pretty much the same players.

But a different result - just.

The only two Geelong players missing from last year's premiership team were retired skipper Tom Harley and injured talisman Max Rooke, who were replaced by Mathew Stokes and Josh Hunt.

The Saints had made four changes in personnel from the heartbreaking grand final loss, with Ben McEvoy, Brett Peake, James Gwilt and Robert Eddy the inclusions.

Conventional wisdom has it that Saints goalsneak Stephen Milne's wastefulness in front of goal and Justin Koschitzke's largely anonymous display were among the reasons why the Saints came up 12 points short last year.

Both began Friday night's match like they were eager to atone, Koschitzke among the best players on the ground in the opening term and Milne booting three goals in an eye-catching six-minute cameo in the second quarter.

Due in no small part to their early efforts - although tellingly Koschitzke failed to touch the ball for the remaining three quarters - the Saints were 33 points up early in the third term and seemingly set for their first-ever finals win over Geelong.

But a Geelong team shooting for a third flag in four years were never going to lie down easily.

With skipper Cameron Ling putting the clamp on St Kilda prime mover Brendon Goddard and Cameron Mooney and Stokes stepping up in attack, Geelong got the margin down to single figures early in the final term.

The Cats dominated play in the final stanza but could manage only a wasteful 1.7, while St Kilda's sole score was a goal from Adam Schneider after excellent lead-up work by Milne.

Then with 61 seconds remaining came the final dramatic moment.

Ling looked to have kicked the goal that would have put the Cats in front for the first time since the opening quarter, only for the score to be disallowed because of a contentious off-the-ball free kick when Mooney was deemed to have pushed Gwilt in the back.

The Cats protested but to no avail.

St Kilda's 12.11 (83) to 11.13 (79) victory earned them a week's rest and a saloon passage into the preliminary final.

Geelong will take on either Hawthorn or Fremantle in a sudden-death semi-final back at the MCG next Friday night.

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