Cats scrape past Blues in Ablett return

Jason Phelan
Cats scrape past Blues in Ablett return

Geelong have celebrated Gary Ablett's Kardinia Park homecoming with a hard-fought 28-point win over Carlton.

In his first game for the Cats at the venue since departing for a seven-season stint at Gold Coast, Ablett was influential in a dour 11.7 (73) to 5.15 (45) win on Saturday night.

After conceding the first four goals of the night, the upstart Blues fought back to trail by just eight points early in the final term.

But the Cats kicked the last three goals of the contest, with two from Tom Hawkins.

Geelong's sixth win of the season was marred by an ugly leg injury to exciting youngster Esava Ratugolea.

The 19-year-old was sent to hospital after his right ankle was broken when it was trapped beneath him in a marking contest in the second quarter.

Carlton had their chances to score an upset win in their first match at the ground since 1997 but were left to rue missed opportunities in front of goal.

Geelong coach Chris Scott was happy with the four premiership points but little else from the uninspiring contest.

"I don't think we played particularly well, I thought the game as a spectacle ... I thought it was a horrible game," Scott said.

"I don't think we helped ourselves much, I thought we were undisciplined at times, gave them a chance to get into the game.

"But in the positives, I thought our defensive group under pressure were outstanding at times."

Tom Stewart put in another eye-catching 28-possession display down back for the Cats.

Skipper Joel Selwood (20 disposals) struggled to shake an Ed Curnow tag but Patrick Dangerfield (29), Mitch Duncan (27) and Ablett (25) were prominent.

Evergreen Carlton defender Kade Simpson starred with 33 touches, while Patrick Cripps was a bull at the stoppages with 31 disposals.

"They jumped us on their home deck and to be able to respond was really important," Blues coach Brendon Bolton said.

"That's all about a young group maturing ... because it's easy to turn it up when you're on an opposition's deck and they get a start like that.

"I was really proud of the response."

Fireworks greeted Ablett and the Cats as they entered the arena.

In keeping with the celebratory atmosphere, debutant Jamaine Jones kicked the Cats' first goal, returning champ Ablett the second and 100-gamer Jordan Murdoch the third.

The signs weren't good for the visitors when Stewart Crameri added a fourth but the Blues steadied.

A week after Melbourne destroyed them by 109 points, Carlton took it right up to their more-fancied opponents from that point.

Harry Taylor was a late out for the Cats with a foot injury and was replaced by Aaron Black.