By James Dampney 03:40pm April 13, 14
NORTH Melbourne has officially stamped itself as a team on the rise and left the Sydney Swans in significant early-season trouble following a 43-point victory at the SCG.
After a slow start to the year, the Kangaroos knocked off previously undefeated Port Adelaide last week and have now ended a long winless run against the Swans, prevailing 13.13 (91) to 6.12 (48).
It is North's first win over the harbour city club in nine attempts, dating back to round six, 2007, and first triumph at the SCG since 2004.
"I thought it was a pretty complete performance against an opposition that we clearly have enormous respect for, for obvious reasons," North coach Brad Scott said afterwards.
"They have been really good side over a long period of time, but specifically when it comes to us, they have taken great joy in beating us over a long period of time.
"Even well before my time, Sydney have had the wood over us, so it is a pretty important win away from home."
It is a very different story for the home side, however, which started the year right among the premiership favourites, but finds itself stuck near the foot of the ladder with a 1-3 record.
The last time the Swans started 1-3 was 2006, a year when they finished the season in the Grand Final, but those heights seem a long way away, with a clash against Fremantle at the SCG up next.
"Some of the basics of the game, particularly in the conditions – we over handballed too much too early and went the other way when it dried up," Swans coach John Longmire said.
"Things like leaving the ball over the back, just a basic part of the game in the conditions like they were today that we didn't get right and paid the price for.
"Also we didn't use the ball to the level we know we can and should, but that all gets back to that general pressure and hardness.
"It's amazing how well we use the ball when we get that up to the level we need it."
The Roos had winners all over the ground, with Ben Cunnington, Nick Dal Santo and Leigh Adams leading the way, while Aaron Black and Daniel Wells kicked three goals and Aaron Mullett added two.
Scott Thompson also continued the sort of form that led to his All Australian selection last year, keeping Lance Franklin to just 13 touches and one behind in his SCG debut as a Swan.
Franklin was reported in the last quarter for striking Thompson, although most felt there was very little in it.
Josh Kennedy relished the wet conditions and had help from Swans co-captain Jarrad McVeigh, with defender Jeremy Laidler their only multiple goalkicker with two.
Lindsay Thomas takes possession ahead of Swan Ted Richards. Picture: AFL Media
But the story is the Kangaroos, who sit outside the top four on percentage alone and will have plenty of confidence heading into next week's MCG clash with Collingwood.
The game started in heavy rain, with Kieren Jack opening the scoring with a sweet set shot in the second minute before North kicked into gear.
Able to cut off most of the Swans' forward entries, the Roos were working their way down the other end of the ground using the wings, with Black and Sam Gibson particularly busy.
Two late goals gave North a nine-point quarter-time lead and another Black major to start the second gave it a handy edge in the conditions.
The home side then got its motor running, producing the game's next five scoring shots, but only Laidler's superb effort from a tight angle was a goal.
At the end of an intense first half the game was perfectly set up, the visitors leading by one straight kick.
The arm-wrestle continued into the third term, but goals to Wells, Drew Petrie and Black – with a rare Heath Grundy goal the Swans' only reply – gave the Roos what looked a commanding 19-point lead at the last change.
And so it proved, with North slamming through six goals to two in the final quarter for a commanding victory that will give their supporters plenty of hope for the year ahead.
SYDNEY SWANS 2.1 3.7 4.9 6.12 (48)
NORTH MELBOURNE 3.4 4.7 7.10 13.13 (91)
Sydney Swans: Laidler 2, Grundy, Jack, McVeigh, O'Keefe
North Melbourne: Black 3, Wells 3, Mullett 2, Petrie, Thomas, Nahas, Adams, Goldstein
Sydney Swans: Kennedy, McVeigh, McGlynn, Laidler, Parker, Jack
North Melbourne: Thompson, Black, Cunnington, Wells, Adams, Dal Santo
Sydney Swans: Gary Rohan replaced Tom Derickx in the third quarter
North Melbourne: Ben Jacobs replaced Robin Nahas at three-quarter time
Reports: Lance Franklin reported for striking Scott Thompson by field umpire Ryan in the fourth quarter
Umpires: Chamberlain, Meredith, Ryan
Official crowd: 25,505 at SCG