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Cats stun Hawks to seal AFL prelim berth

AAP logoAAP 9/09/2016 By Jason Phelan

Geelong have booked an AFL preliminary final berth in stunning fashion, Hawthorn winger Isaac Smith missing a set-shot after the siren to leave the Cats winners by two points at the MCG.

The Hawks won six games by less than 10 points this season but they couldn't make it seven after Smith pushed his shot from 40m on a slight angle to the right, leaving Geelong players celebrating a 12.13 (85) to 12.11 (83) win in front of 87,533 fans.

Hawthorn held a slender lead for most of Friday night's final term but the Cats - led superbly by Patrick Dangerfield and Joel Selwood - took back the lead through Josh Caddy with just over four minutes to play.

The latest chapter in one of the fiercest rivalries of the past decade was typically hard fought, with flashes of brilliance, plenty of niggle and, of course, it was close all the way.

Cyril Rioli and Paul Puopolo delivered individual highlights with trademark towering marks, while Luke Hodge, Sam Mitchell and the Selwood brothers were never far away when tempers boiled over.

Scott Selwood applied a hard tag on Mitchell in one of the most-absorbing duels of the evening, with the Hawks' playmaker taking the honours with 30 disposals.

The Cats led by seven points at the first break, the Hawks by the same margin at halftime before Chris Scott's side edged back in front by two points at three-quarter time to set up the stunning finale.

If Hawthorn are to win a historic fourth flag in a row, they'll have to do it the hard way. They face the Western Bulldogs in a semi-final next weekend, while the Cats have a week off to prepare for their preliminary final.

The Hawks suffered injury blows when they lost James Sicily to illness before the game and Ryan Burton to a calf injury in the second quarter.

Scott admitted he felt the game had slipped from Geelong's grasp when Smith marked the ball inside the attacking 50 as time ran out.

"That's almost as good as footy gets isn't it?" he said.

"I feel for Isaac. It's a horrible situation to be in. Off the boot he probably thought it looked pretty good as well ... in the moment you're not commiserating with them, but I certainly do feel for them.

"The game was just typical of a final. It was a real contrast of styles, but still really fierce, and it was just the team that could take the moment when it really counted that was going to prevail."

Hawks coach Alastair Clarkson said his players would quickly shake off the disappointment of the last-gasp defeat.

"I said to the players that if you're going to lose a final this is the one to lose (because) all the rest of them don't give you a second chance," Clarkson said.

"We went down this path last year and we'll have to go down it again.

"It's disappointing but we had our chances throughout the course of the night and so did the Cats.

"It comes down to the last kick and it could quite easily have been us victorious and them licking their wounds."

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