Highlights: North Melbourne v Gold Coast
The Roos and Suns clash in round 7
Ryan Bastinac is caught in a Suns sandwich at Etihad Stadium
GOLD Coast has taken a significant step in its quest to play finals for the first time, beating North Melbourne by 43 points and notching its maiden win at Etihad Stadium on Sunday afternoon.
With their form building and best line-up being assembled, the Suns booted the first seven goals of the game and held on when the Kangaroos challenged, winning 18.12 (120) to 11.11 (77).
Captain Gary Ablett
had a limited impact in the first three quarters, but he burst free in the final term to kick three goals and seal the important win for his young team.
Having won just twice on the road last season, the Suns now have two away wins from seven games and a 5-2 record that has them well positioned to play in September for the first time.
After their bye in round eight, the Suns have a golden opportunity to cement themselves in the top eight with clashes against St Kilda (Etihad Stadium) and the Western Bulldogs (Metricon Stadium).
For North Melbourne (4-3), the loss underlined the inconsistency of Brad Scott's team this season, with goals conceded late in quarters hurting the cause on Sunday.
As well as Ablett, who finished with 28 possessions and four goals, midfielder Dion Prestia (28 and six clearances) and half-back Kade Kolodjashnij (25 and five rebound 50s) played key roles.
Important midfielder Harley Bennell (23 and two goals) didn't miss a beat returning from a calf injury to play his first game of the season, giving the Suns a full-strength on-ball brigade.
Key forward Charlie Dixon also returned after a month sidelined with groin issues and kicked three goals in a dominant tall forward line that included Tom Lynch and Sam Day.
"That was the pleasing thing, their ability to absorb that pressure from North Melbourne and weather the storm, like an arm wrestle," he said.
"In our infancy, we've seen that our good is good enough but we haven't been able to keep our foot on the pedal.
"I can dismiss that and say young bodies, V8s versus V6s, but I took more out of it when the boys got challenged."
The Suns produced the best opening term of any team this season, booting 7.4 in a superb display of hard-running, counter-attack football.
They stunned the Roos with quick ball-movement and long kicking inside 50, with the fast start achieved with little more than a cameo from Ablett, who was tagged by Levi Greenwood.
Gary Ablett on the run against the Kangaroos. Picture: AFL Media
Kicking their only goal through Drew Petrie after 26 minutes, the North Melbourne response needed to be emphatic in the second quarter.
Ben Cunnington was the instigator in the midfield, winning 14 possessions (nine contested) and four clearances in the second term as the Roos piled on six goals to three, cutting the half-time margin to 17 points.
In a see-sawing third term, the Roos were able to cut the margin to four points after three consecutive goals.
They conceded morale-sapping late goals, however, before Ablett asserted himself on the contest.
"They outworked us through the midfield, they were quick, I thought their execution by hand and foot was very clean and crisp and they had dangerous forwards.
"Our ball movement was terrible, our effort in the contest wasn't up to standard and we suffered a really disappointing loss against a side that was better than us on the day."
Defender Lachie Hansen played loose and had an impact with a career-high 17 marks and 30 possessions, while Greenwood (27 and one goal), Sam Gibson (30 and one) and Jack Ziebell (28 and nine marks) battled manfully for the Roos.
NORTH MELBOURNE 1.4 7.6 10.10 11.11 (70)
GOLD COAST 7.4 10.5 13.10 18.12 (120)
North Melbourne: Daw 2, Petrie, Greenwood, Thomas, Harvey, Gibson, McKenzie, Bastinac, Black, Mullett
Gold Coast: Ablett 4, Dixon 3, Matera 3, Bennell 2, Lynch 2, Day, Prestia, Rischitelli, Hall
North Melbourne: Hansen, Cunnington, Greenwood, Ziebell, Goldstein, Gibson
Gold Coast: Prestia, Lynch, Ablett, Kolodjashnij, Harbrow, Bennell, Dixon
North Melbourne: Hansen (knee)
Gold Coast: Kolodjashnij (knee), Nicholls (knee)
North Melbourne: Joel Tippett replaced by Luke McDonald in the fourth quarter
Gold Coast: Tom Nicholls (knee) replaced by Luke Russell in the third quarter
Reports: Lindsay Thomas (North Melbourne) for striking Danny Stanley (Gold Coast) in the third quarter
Umpires: Dalgleish, Burgess, Findlay
Official crowd: 19,819 at Etihad Stadium