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Hawks hang on in heartstopping MCG clash

Highlights: Hawthorn v North Melbourne The Hawks and Roos clash in round 5
Isaac Smith celebrates a goal during Hawthorn's win over North Melbourne on Sunday - ${keywords}
Isaac Smith celebrates a goal during Hawthorn's win over North Melbourne on Sunday
HAWTHORN held on in a thriller against a determined North Melbourne with a three-point win at the MCG on Sunday.
The ball was deep in North Melbourne's forward line when the siren went after a long Drew Petrie kick was spoiled at the top of the goalsquare.
The final scores were Hawthorn 14.15 (99) to North Melbourne 13.18 (96).

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It took three surprise first-quarter goals from ruckman Max Bailey – who had kicked three goals in his previous 28 games before Sunday – and three explosive third-quarter goals from Cyril Rioli (who looked to suffer a hamstring injury late in the last quarter) to tilt the game the Hawks' way.

Hawthorn coach Alastair Clarkson was relieved to take the four points and move on.

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"We didn't play anywhere near our best footy today. Was that because we were a little bit off? Or was it because of the way the Kangaroos approached it? I don't know," Clarkson said. "But we have a lot of KPIs that we like to measure ourselves on that we were significantly down on today, and we still won the game of footy. That's the pleasing aspect of it."
In many aspects North Melbourne was superior, recording 63 inside 50s to Hawthorn's 47 however it lost where it mattered most - on the scoreboard.

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Daniel Wells was brilliant around the stoppages. Scott Thompson subdued Lance Franklin – who was offline missing four set shots and finishing with five behinds – and Sam Wright kept the heat on Grant Birchall. Luke Hodge managed just four touches in the first half, but finished the game with 17 and was good in the final quarter.
The weight of numbers North Melbourne's way (it had 30 free kicks to Hawthorn's 15) did not translate to the scoreboard. Hawthorn was able to keep its nose in front for most of the evening, like a racing yacht tacking left then right to keep their opponent at bay.

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At three-quarter time the Hawks trailed the inside 50 count 35-48 but still had a nine-point lead.
When Lindsay Thomas – who kicked two set shot goals in the second quarter and then a crucial two late in the final term – opened the quarter with a snap goal, North Melbourne began to believe.
It was outrunning the Hawks and Wells showed his class with a running goal from the boundary to put the Kangaroos in front.

Click here to vote for the three best North Melbourne players from the match
Under pressure, Hawthorn's leaders lifted. Hodge began winning the ball and Sam Mitchell kept a cool head to kick a set shot goal to regain the lead.
When Thomas kicked his fifth goal the margin was back within a goal and in a frantic two minutes Hawthorn held on. If it had lost, a controversial overturning of a goal to Luke Breust in the second quarter would have been debated ad-nauseam.

Click here to vote for the three best Hawthorn players from the match
North Melbourne now has just one win despite being one of the best performed teams in the early rounds and takes on an in-form Port Adelaide next week.

A disappointed Brad Scott said he knew the reason why the team was falling just short and it was their responsibility to improve as quickly as possible:

"We can sit here and talk about myths and about luck and all those sorts of things but the fact is we're one win, four losses and had an opportunity to win all of those games," Scott said.

"We're not delusional. We're not kidding ourselves. There is a very specific reason as to why we're not 5-0 – we're 1-4. We're clear as to what those things are and we're not prepared to divulge those things in the public forum but we're very clear and we've just got to keep working but the fundamentals are very sound."

HAWTHORN                        5.4   8.8   11.11   14.15   (99)
NORTH MELBOURNE        3.5   7.9    9.15    13.18   (96)

Rioli 4, Bailey 3, Smith, Osborne, Burgoyne, Roughead, Hill, Mitchell, Gunston
North Melbourne: Thomas 5, Black 2, Ziebell, Mullett, Adams, Petrie, Gibson, Wells

Rioli, Lewis, Mitchell, Burgoyne
North Melbourne: Wells, Thomas, Thompson, Cunnington, Swallow, Ziebell

Rioli (right hamstring)
North Melbourne: Hansen (knee) replaced in selected side by Black.

Shane Savage replaced Max Bailey during the third quarter.
North Mebourne: Liam Anthony replaced Majak Daw at three-quarter-time.

Reports: Nil

Umpires: Farmer, Stevic, Ryan

Official crowd: 42,103 at the MCG
The views in this article are those of the author and not necessarily those of the AFL or its clubs