NORTH MELBOURNE 6.4 13.8 15.8 17.10 (112)
BRISBANE LIONS 3.2 5.4 11.6 15.6 (96)
North Melbourne have survived another spirited comeback from one of the AFL’s cellar dwellers for the second week in a row, finishing up winners by 16 points despite leading by 52 at the half.
North started with a rush, kicking the first goal of the afternoon within 30 seconds of the opening bounce when Andrew Raines gave away an early 50-metre penalty, and it was the sign of things to come in the first half.
Midfield domination saw North kick the next two and go close to kicking a couple more before Aaron Cornelius steadied for Brisbane’s first, and most observers felt that North’s 20- point lead at the first break should have been greater.
Levi Greenwood and Andrew Swallow were winning plenty of contested ball through the middle with Todd Goldstein giving them first use, as they controlled the majority of the play with superior run and work rate.
As the second quarter rolled on, the game opened up with North completely blanketing Brisbane between the arcs. Leading the clearances 24-12 and 90-61 for contested possessions gave the likes of Brent Harvey the opportunity to use his experience on the spread, which resulted in a 52-point lead at the main break.
When Sam Wright converted from a free early in the third, it was starting to look ugly for Brisbane.
However, as with last week’s capitulation when the Kangaroos blew a 32-point lead against Port Adelaide, North Melbourne seemed to be content with what looked to be a match-winning lead.
Beginning with Ash McGrath and Joshua Green, Brisbane swung the momentum and found their run, piling on five consecutive goals to reduce the margin to a gettable 26 points at the final break.
Thoughts of a truly spectacular comeback were extinguished in the last however, when Greenwood and Kieran Harper extended the lead back out to 40.
The Lions fought on valiantly and finished the stronger with nine of the last eleven goals, yet the four points were safely in North Melbourne’s hands.
For the victors, Kieran Harper and Sam Wright were busy in the forward half for most of the day, as was second-gamer Aaron Black.
Cameron Delaney and Nathan Grima played fantastic defensive games, holding Jonathan Brown and Daniel Merrett to three goals after they kicked 13 between them last week.
Yet it was Goldstein in the ruck with 47 hit-outs and 28 disposals who earned best-on-ground honours in the absence of Hamish McIntosh.
Daniel Rich and Jack Redden were the best of a very inconsistent bunch for Brisbane, and Cornelius can hold his head up after kicking four majors for the visitors.
3) – Goldstein (North)
2) – Swallow (North)
1) – L Delaney (North)
North Melbourne: Wright 4, Petrie 3, Black 3, Harper 3, Ziebell, Swallow, Harvey, Greenwood
Brisbane Lions: Cornelius 4, Redden 2, Green 2, Brown 2, Bewick, Rich, Rockliff, Merrett, Zorko
North Melbourne: Goldstein, Greenwood, Swallow, Wright, Petrie, Black, L Delaney
Brisbane Lions: Redden, Golby, Cornelius, Green, Hanley, Rockliff
North Melbourne: Ziebell (back)
Brisbane Lions: Black (knee)
North Melbourne: Jack Ziebell (back) replaced in the third quarter by Cruize Garlett
Brisbane Lions: Simon Black (knee) replaced by Ryan Lester in the third quarter
Umpires: Margetts, Leppard, McInerney
Official crowd: 19,988 at Etihad Stadium