HAWTHORN 2.2 3.2 9.7 14.10 (94) GEELONG 3.2 8.3 9.3 11.5 (71)
Goals: Hawthorn: D Hale 3 J Roughead 3 W Langford 2 B Sewell J Ceglar J Gunston J Lewis L Breust L Shiels. Geelong: T Hawkins 3 J Murdoch 2 H Taylor J Bartel J Selwood J Thurlow M Duncan S Motlop.
Best: Hawthorn: Langford, Mitchell, Lewis Birchall, Burgoyne, Gibson, Roughead. Geelong: Caddy, Duncan, Mackie, Stokes, Guthrie, Varcoe, Christianson
Umpires: Matt Stevic, Brett Rosebury, Shane McInerney
Official Crowd: 72,212 at MCG
Were you unaware of the history of these teams, the transformation from one half of the game to the other would have seemed fanciful. For those with knowledge of the history, the fact that it was Hawthorn and not Geelong that mounted a comeback and won the match was similarly unlikely.
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Hawthorn comes from 31 points down to record a 23-point victory over Geelong at the MCG.
After winning 12 of the last 13 games, the Cats would have been presumed to be the side to win – especially after leading by 33 points.
For a half Geelong was the better side by five goals and, incredibly, 100 possessions. Then from this fog Hawthorn emerged to kick 10 unanswered goals.
Naturally another twist remained. After leading by 33 points, Geelong then trailed by 28 then offered a little late rally with two quick goals before Hawthorn put the game to bed.
It had appeared the tired Hawks, running on a six day break after playing in Perth, were flat and not especially interested in a less meaningful game than the one these two teams will probably play in a fortnight's time.
Geelong was the side with the plan, the interest and the intent. The Cats had 100 more possessions – 88 of them uncontested – for the half. In that half nine Geelong players had more of the ball than Hawthorn's leading possession-getter.
Numbers like these can suggest a difference in style of play – if not effect – but these numbers represented both.
The Cats chopped and shared, spread and sliced. Hawthorn sagged back into their defence and allowed Geelong to come to them. Geelong took the cue from others and squeezed tags on Hawthorn's runners, not their prolific inside midfielders on whom the tight tagger normally has minimal effect, but their runners.
So Mathew Stokes shadowed Isaac Smith and Jackson Thurlow and then Marc Blicavs sat on Bradley Hill's shoulder. Without the wingmen biting through the middle the Hawks' link was lost.
The normally dangerous Luke Breust had one touch for the half as Andrew Mackie had 14 on him.
The rub of the green of decisions helped Geelong open up a lead early in the second quarter. Of course some Matthew Mitcham work from Jimmy Bartel to draw a free and convert the goal did help.
The ascendancy though was clear: Geelong was sharing the ball at will and Hawthorn seemed unable to stop it.
The change took some time. Hawthorn re-entered the half with more determination but a couple of wasted chances from Paul Puopolo appeared likely to waste its vim.
Hawthorn took over 12 minutes to kick its first goal of the quarter but when it did it precipitated a surge that was irresistible. Will Langford kicked one and helped Jordan Lewis with another, Breust found space that was missing in the first half then David Hale launched himself with the flight to mark the ball on his chest facing goal.
The difference was Hawthorn hunted the ball and the player in the second half in a manner that it refused to do in the first half. In the first half the Hawks waited on Geelong to come to them and folded back into defence.
It would appear this was not by design because after the main break they pressured the ball carrier at every chance and closed down Geelong's time and space.
Hawthorn's new-found desire upset Geelong's overlap handball and chain of play.
Langford played the best game of his brief career. He is a clever player, assured with the ball, he bustles like a man in a hurry but his mind works at a different pace, like that of someone with time. He makes the right decisions and has the pace to break lines. He kicked two goals and set up another. It was not just his best game but he was Hawthorn's best player.
The change also came with Sam Mitchell gathering eight touches for the third quarter, Luke Hodge moving into the middle, Shaun Burgoyne and Grant Birchall mopping up behind the ball. Matt Suckling was subbed out injured but Jonathan Simpkin arrival in the game gave Hawthorn another dimension.
Jarryd Roughead, back after his one week out for tripping, took the marks when they mattered, his goals even more timely.
Most troubling for the Hawks was Jack Gunston leaving the ground in the last quarter limping from an injured knee.
■ Papua New Guineas snuck home by three points to defeat Ireland in the final of the International Cup competition on Saturday. Final scores were PNG 6.9 (45) to Ireland 6.6 (42).