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Harry has better of Rance

Geelong veteran Harry Taylor (left) had the better of Richmond defender Alex Rance. (AAP Image/Julian Smith)

HOW often would you see two of the modern day’s great defenders spend virtually the entire game as opponents?

But that was the match-up fans were treated to at Simonds Stadium between Harry Taylor and Alex Rance as Geelong all but secured a double chance for September with a 14-point win over Richmond.

Between them the pair have five All-Australian honours as defenders and both have been named centre half-back in the prestigious end-of-season representative side.

But this week the Cats needed Taylor to play at full-forward with Tom Hawkins out suspended – and Rance lowered his colours for one of the very few times in recent years.

Taylor had 11 touches, took six marks and kicked 4.2 to be the match winner in the 11.14 (80) to 9.12 (66) result.

Importantly, he was able to subdue one of the key strengths of Rance’s game, his ability to pick off attacking moves and counter attack.

Taylor, who captained the Cats in the absence of injured skipper Joel Selwood, said it was important he made Rance accountable at every contest.

“I’ve been watching a lot of Alex Rance for a lot of years because I think he’s the best defender in the game,” Taylor said post-match.

“He averages around about 10-12 intercepts a game, which is unbelievable, and he’s so important to the way they play.

“So I just wanted to go out and give a contest when I could. That’s what the coaches expect of me.

“You don’t always mark everything, you just want to bring the ball to ground as much as you can and stop that intercept play which Richmond are so good at.

“So happy to be able to quell that influence a bit and contribute on the scoreboard myself.”

Out of desperation, Richmond coach Damian Hardwick threw Rance forward in the final minutes in a bid to generate some scores.

“I think he did create a couple of goals for them so I did think maybe I should go down and play on him up the other end,” Taylor said.

“But we kept checking the time and seeing how long was left and fortunately we were just in front by enough.”

For all the criticism that’s come Chris Scott’s way for persevering with Taylor as a forward in 2017, he’s actually now kicked 20 goals for the season.

“This was the second game this year I’ve played forward the entire game,” Taylor mused.

“My confidence in the role has improved as the season’s gone on – purely because of the time factor.

“It was the first pre-season that I’ve actually done as a forward and I knew I was always going to improve as the year’s gone on.”

Twitter: @GreenBradley