Hawks hold off Cats rally in AFL thriller

By AAP Newswire

If Hawthorn's 11-point win over Geelong at the MCG was a dress rehearsal for the AFL finals then Alastair Clarkson's Hawks are ready for the big stage.

Young star Jaeger O'Meara sealed Saturday's 10.11 (71) to 8.12 (60) win in front of 59,529 fans by kicking the last goal of the day with just under a minute remaining.

In another thrilling instalment of their storied rivalry, the Cats trailed by 26 points at three-quarter time but slashed the margin to eight points with eight minutes remaining to set up a frantic finale.

Geelong spearhead Tom Hawkins had the chance to make it a one-point game with just more than three minutes left but missed a set shot from well inside 50.

The win leaves Hawthorn well placed to snare a top-four berth.

"We're just so pleased, particularly for our younger players," Clarkson said.

"If ever we get the chance, whether that's somewhere at the end of this year or next year or beyond, these are the type of games you love to play in.

"So that was a dress rehearsal for what might come. When that comes we're not really sure because we're still building as a club.

"I think we saw that today where we had patches where we played really well and others where we lowered our colours.

"But it's a trademark of Geelong to come with a surge late in the game."

Hawks ball magnet Tom Mitchell had to contend with some close checking from Scott Selwood but was influential with 32 possessions.

Evergreen veteran Shaun Burgoyne was also outstanding with 20 touches and 13 tackles, as was Liam Shiels with 21 possessions and 10 tackles.

The narrow result leaves the Cats outside the eight and in a dogfight to make the finals.

Patrick Dangerfield starred for Geelong with 40 possessions, with Gary Ablett important with 32 disposals and three goals.

But Chris Scott was left to rue another late charge that fell short.

"The comeback was good, I don't think anyone can accuse us of not hanging in their and not believing we can win when the chips are down," Scott said.

"I think the more pertinent question is: why are we waiting so long to play that way?"

The Hawks suffered a blow before the opening bounce when skipper Jarryd Roughead was ruled out with a sore ankle.

The Cats lost ruckman Rhys Stanley to the return of a calf injury in the second quarter.