*For an overview of AFL please read the previous AFL Match Report
With the entrance of Spring, a warm night greeted 91,767 fans at the Melbourne Cricket Ground in this first elimination match which marked the Melbourne Demon’s first finals victory in over a decade. Winning by 29 points after scoring 10 goals and 15 behinds compared to Geelong’s 6 goals and 10 behinds, the Demons certainly came out fighting in their first finals series since 2006.
Within three minutes of the first quarter starting, Geelong’s Gary Ablett scored a behind. This early hope for the Geelong fans was short lived as despite gaining five inside 50s, the Cats failed to gain any marks and missed a potential behind. With the Demons preventing the Cats from gaining a mark, the momentum surged resulting in Tom McDonald scoring a goal for the Demons after registering a mark six minutes in. Within the next eight minutes, the Demons surged ahead with McDonald obtaining a behind, Max Gawn a goal, Alex Neal-Bullen a behind, and James Harmes a goal after two beautiful long distance kicks accumulated in a mark. Kicking efficiency for the Cats was 47% compared to the whopping 70% for the Demons. During this period, the Cats were beginning to falter. They missed a mark and a push in the back meant they lost possession to Melbourne. 20 minutes into the quarter, Geelong managed to gain a rushed behind bringing the score to 20-2. Minutes later, Sam Weideman scored a goal after a Cat pushed him in the back earning him a mark. With Melbourne squeezing in a rushed behind and a goal by Weideman, the first quarter ended with 33-2. This is only the fourth time that Melbourne have held the Geelong Cats goalless in an opening quarter of the finals since 1990.
With the second quarter firmly in the grasp of the Demons, it seemed the game would only be heading in one direction. With Geelong throwing the ball into the crowd, a quick series of behinds (McDonald–rushed–Neal-Bullen) by Melbourne cemented their lead. Although the Demons had the edge, the Cats were determined; their fighting spirit demonstrated through preventing the Demons from scoring. With Melbourne inciting a marking infringement by pushing Geelong’s Tim Kelly in the back, the Cats gained their very first goal just under nine minutes into the second quarter. The Cats also scored a back-to-back goal after Tom Hawkins gained a mark. The quarter saw three more behinds awarded to the Demons and two to the Cats bringing the score to 39-16 by half time.
With the siren signalling the start of the third quarter, Geelong came out with a renewed spirit. Tom Hawkins scored a goal for the Cats closing the gap to 39-22. However, a minute later, the Demon’s Jake Melksham also scored bringing back the 23 point difference. A marking infringement by Melbourne led to a mark with Tim Kelly earning the Cats a behind. Patrick Dangerfield and Daniel Menzel also gained the Cats a behind as well as the Cats obtaining a rushed behind. Meanwhile, Christian Salem, Dom Tyson, Christian Petracca, and Alex Neal-Bullen each earnt a behind bringing the score to 49-26 as the siren sounded the end of the third quarter.
As we entered the final quarter, the game seemed a done deal. Demons captain Nathan Jones scored his first goal 50 seconds in. Geelong had been suffering from spacing issues throughout the game and these were apparent in the fourth quarter also. For example, Geelong made a stunning sequence of disposals but there was no Cat to catch the final disposal meaning they lost possession to the Demons. The Cats obtained a rushed behind and a goal by Zach Tuohy minutes after Jones’ goal. A spectacular goal then came from Melbourne’s Mitch Hannon who ran down the clear arena to kick the ball in. This perhaps closed the deal by bringing the Demon’s lead to 61-33. With the pressure mounting, Tim Kelly earnt Geelong a behind. The Demons then gained a behind, goal, and rushed behind curtesy of Sam Weideman and Jordan Murdoch, advancing their lead even further. Although the Cats were slowly clawing their way back but it seemed too little too late as Alex Neal-Bullen scored the final goal of the match for the Melbourne Demons and the siren announced the end of the game. The Demons won 75-46.
The Melbourne Demons will be facing the Hawthorn Hawks in the first round of the semi-finals next week.