Geelong have again stepped up in the second half to grind out a 21-point AFL win against a wayward St Kilda under the roof at Marvel Stadium.
In a low-scoring scrap on Friday night, the Cats clicked into gear after the main break to record their sixth win of the season.
It was nowhere near as convincing as their irresistible third-quarter demolition of reigning premiers Richmond in last week’s AFL grand final rematch but it was enough.
The Saints trailed by just five points at three-quarter-time and still appeared to have a genuine chance of an upset victory, but simply lacked polish as Geelong ran out winners 10.8 (68) to 5.17 (47).
Adding to St Kilda’s pain was a foot injury to Rowan Marshall, with the important ruckman distraught after being subbed off for Ben Long in the third quarter.
Midfielder Brad Crouch and small forward Jack Lonie also suffered big knocks but were able to return to the ground.
The Saints dominated early but only led by three points at halftime completely thanks to some diabolical finishing in front of goal.
The Saints sprayed nine behinds before their first goal came through Max King 10 minutes into the second quarter.
But King’s (1.5) night went downhill from there, with his case of yips worsening and he even fell over by himself inside-50 when running into an open goal.
“Probably for a couple of weeks we haven’t finished our work, even last week we kicked 15 points,” Saints coach Brett Ratten.
“Max is a terrific young player. The real pleasing aspect is he played against some really good defenders and put himself right in the picture.
“He’s going to keep learning, a second-year player. For him to have six shots at goal, gave a couple off – he’s going to put it together, whether it’s next week or in a month.”
Former Hawthorn wingman Isaac Smith was a game-breaker for the Cats, while midfielders Joel Selwood and Cameron Guthrie delivered.
Tom Hawkins, Gary Rohan and the unheralded Brad Close kicked two goals each for Geelong on a night when scoring proved difficult.
“We were a bit lucky, to be honest, that was our observation, especially early in the game,” Cats coach Chris Scott said.
“They were all over us. Couldn’t kick straight, could have really put us under some pressure, but the second half was a bit more in our favour.
“That’s one of the marks of a good team, when you’re not playing all that well but sort of find a way to get into the game.”
Geelong defender Zach Tuohy had the crowd on their feet in the first quarter when he launched a torpedo from a kick-out which almost hit the roof and journeyed past halfway on the ground.
The Cats will be back at GMHBA Stadium next Saturday when they host Gold Coast, while St Kilda (4-5) tackle the Western Bulldogs, another premiership contender, in round 10.