Geelong has eventually wore down a battle-weary Collingwood, holding firm to record a 21-point victory in a scrappy contest at the MCG on Sunday afternoon.
The Cats separated themselves from the Magpies in what was largely a dour affair, with consecutive goals to Sam Menegola in the third term opening up a game-high 27-point lead.
However, to their credit an injury-depleted Magpies hung tough and at least made the Cats work for the 9.12 (66) to 5.15 (45) victory that propelled them to third spot on the ladder.
With Gary Ablett and Patrick Dangerfield spending plenty of time up forward, Tim Kelly (22 touches and six clearances) continued his superb run of form through the midfield with his instinctive stoppage craft a real highlight.
Menegola proved to be the circuit-breaker for the Cats with the hard-bodied high half-forward gathering 24 disposals (13 contested), taking 10 marks and kicking three of Geelong’s nine goals for the afternoon.
Tom Stewart‘s ascension to being one of the AFL’s top defenders continued in earnest, with the 25-year-old winning critical contests at crunch times for his side. Stewart, who collected 28 disposals against the Magpies, would have to be in All Australian contention at his point of the season.
Returning from a hamstring injury, Gary Ablett racked up 32 disposals and did enough to suggest he will be an extremely important weapon for Geelong to rely on in the second-half of the year.
With Tom Hawkins missing through suspension, exciting young forward Esava Ratugolea also displayed incredibly encouraging signs as the predominant target inside 50 with his one-grab marking (three contested) a feature.
The Magpies were down to two men on the bench for the majority of the second half when Darcy Moore (hamstring) and Tom Phillips (concussion) were ruled out of the game and it hurt as they tried to mount a charge late in the game.
Despite its lack of rotations, Collingwood, which lacked potency up forward as it managed just 5.15, did its best to remain in striking distance and closed the gap to 21 points at the final change.
Emerging defender Matthew Scharenberg was superb for Collingwood in what was his best game at AFL level, notching 29 disposals at 82.8 per cent efficiency to go with 14 marks.
Adam Treloar amassed 34 disposals and Jack Crisp had 32 touches, although at times the pair were the biggest culprits as Collingwood torched the football through the middle of the ground – the Magpies recorded 18 midfield turnovers in the first half.
Jeremy Howe was also as solid as ever in the backline with the high-flying defender waging an entertaining battle with Dangerfield when he was stationed up forward.
The Pies desperately tried to stage a late comeback, but with their run and energy sapped by having two men on the bench proved to be too big of a hurdle to overcome.
As such, the final margin remained the same as what it was at three-quarter time – 21 points – as the final siren sounded.
COLLINGWOOD 1.3 1.6 4.11 5.15 (45)
GEELONG 2.4 4.7 7.10 9.12 (66)
Collingwood: Phillips 2, Hoskin-Elliott, De Goey, Grundy
Geelong: Menegola 3, Ablett, Horlin-Smith, Dangerfield, Crameri, Thurlow, Ratugolea
Collingwood: Scharenberg, Howe, Treloar, Sidebottom, Mayne, Grundy
Geelong: Menegola, Stewart, Kelly, Duncan, Dangerfield, Ablett
Collingwood: Pendlebury (ankle) replaced in the selected side by Crocker, Moore (hamstring), Phillips (concussion)
Geelong: Bews (corked thigh)
Umpires: Nicholls, Findlay, Wallace
Official crowd: 44,602 at the MCG
— Collingwood FC (@CollingwoodFC) May 13, 2018
Source: Collingwood FC’s website